Ep 107: Transparent Leadership
What is the secret of transparent leaders that causes the people around them to be supportive and caring? How do leaders earn respect when they become transparent? Is transparent leadership being vulnerable and open for doubt and high expectations? In this episode of Get Lit, Adam Quiney talks about various examples and scenarios showing the power of being willing to be a transparent leader. Gain realization and get inspiration to trigger the leader inside you to adopt the attributes of transparent leadership from this conversation.
Listen to the Episode Here:
This conversation is about leadership. How do we be leaders in the world not how do we become leaders, not what steps do I have to take to acquire a leadership position but how do we be a leader right here, right now, no matter where we are. Further, the intent here is to have conversations that cause your leadership as opposed to conversations about leadership. That’s the difference between a leadership conversation and a conversation about leadership.
A leadership conversation causes leadership at the moment. It calls forth your leadership. It has you step into being a leader right here and right now. A conversation about leadership gives you more to think about. It gives you more information to hold in your head. It gives you more to apply into an algorithm about how to do this when this shows up and create the right result, which is not leadership. That is a series of algorithms, which as is my one I would much prefer.
If we could create leadership by following a set of algorithms, that would be delightful to me, because I’m good at following those but we can’t so instead, we have these conversations. That’s why you’re reading Get Lit. Thanks for being here. We’re going to talk about transparency in your leadership. Transparent leadership. What am I talking about here? Most of us carry out leadership and partnership in an attempt to have it look like we’ve got it all figured out. We don’t want to reveal the places where we aren’t clear. We don’t want to shine any light on the places where we feel nervous or unsettled. We definitely don’t want to speak to any of our fears.
This is exactly why things like imposter syndrome and leadership breakdowns seem to perennially occur. The thing about imposter syndrome is this fear that they will find out. What we’re going to look at is the transparency in your leadership and your partnership, what do we tend towards instead of transparency, why is it important and how do you practice it? What do we tend to do by default? As a default, as a leader, anytime you’re being a leader, causing, creating, showing up as a leader, our default as leaders are to bind to the belief that a leader has everything figured out. That is our MO, our default way of thinking but if you already have everything figured out, then the truth is, you’re probably not leading.
Leadership happens in the unknown and the darkness that exists outside of our comfort zone, what’s known, and familiarity. This false belief about what leadership requires, our egos desire to keep us safe and appear knowledgeable, especially in the face of the fact that leadership exists in the unknown where we don’t have knowledge where we haven’t yet figured it out. We typically find ourselves trying to pave over the underlying truth that we haven’t got it all figured out. This is basically where our ego clashes with leadership, not the first nor the last time that these two entities, if you like will clash or collide our ego and our leadership.
To summarize that we’ve got the ego’s need and the belief to have things figured out and to show that we’ve got it all handled, “Don’t you worry over there. I’ve got this,” with the fact that leadership almost inherently requires that you don’t got this. You don’t know that you don’t have it figured out. The way this manifests tends to be that we do whatever is necessary to avoid people seeing through the veil of our, got it all figured outedness at the moment. If people ask questions about something that lands and what you do not know, you may speak in vague terms. Maybe you’ll get defensive, redirect the conversation or overcompensate.
Maybe you’ll talk at length about nothing at all. Have you ever had one of these situations where someone asked you a question and the truth was you weren’t clear on what they were asking, but you didn’t think it was okay to ask that? Instead, you did this long drawn-out answer that talks about what they’re talking about and eventually they stop listening to you and you stop and move on. If you haven’t done that, I’m sure I’m quite certain you’ve seen other people do that. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the overcompensation.
The experience we’re left in his thinking, “I didn’t get what is going on.” We make it mean something about ourselves so I want to clarify that. The experience we get when we’re on the other side of that when we’ve asked someone a question or taken a look in an area they don’t feel comfortable about and they overcompensate, redirect the conversation, get defensive or speak in vague terms whatever it is. We outside of that are left going, “I don’t understand what this leader is saying or I’m not following.” We make that mean something about ourselves, “Am I dumb? Is anyone else getting this? This seems weird, but no one else is looking around so the problem is me.” That’s where we conclude.
Over time, as this continues to happen, people start to lose faith in your leadership. When we don’t understand why we don’t understand, we tend to check out. We don’t understand. That’s fine. We can be non-understanding but when we don’t understand why we don’t understand we’re left with nowhere to go. If each time we asked for more clarification, we are left in that, we tend to check out. We tend to leave.
The other reason that this is tricky is that we project our own beliefs about how leadership is meant to look when we do it on to how other people are doing it. When you first experienced someone leaving transparently, you may be triggered or frustrated by it. You’re like, “You don’t have this figured out? Come on.” When a leader shares with you that they don’t have this sorted, or that they, in fact, are scared or they’re frustrated, we project meaning onto that and we get frustrated. That has us collectively be even more motivated to try and make it look like everything’s handled.
We are worried about that person’s reaction over there so now we’re managing both our own story as well as theirs. To put it differently, when you’re creating something new, something outside of the existing paradigm, it will initially trigger people. Until you fully integrated your own shift, people getting triggered is going to trigger you. What does it look like to lead transparently? Leading transparently means that we share the fears along with everything else that are present for ourselves. We share the pieces that we don’t yet have figured out or the areas where we ourselves are in the process of learning, discovering, or creating.
There’s a little bit of a challenge already with that because, in truth, many of us would rather talk about leadership rather than step into it. Many of us aren’t willing to do those ugly pieces of work. They would have us continue to go forth down the path that we want everyone else to go down as well. We get a little bit worried, “I don’t want to own that I’m in the process of learning, discovering, or creating something,” because, on some level, we know we’re not. We can feel the lack of truth.
Partnering And Leadership
This is another reason why it’s so important to work with a coach and a leader so that we are in our work, we are not falling sway and not being fooled by our ego, which is what happens when you try to do the work on your own. When we partner with someone, rather than pretend we know what we’re doing next or trying to cover up and be discreet about asking our partner where they feel we should go, we can say things.
You can even imagine partnering and leadership so you’re leaving at the front of the room so you could turn to someone and be like, “I got a little lost there. Can you grab the reins for me? Where do you feel we should go next at this moment? I got that question from Ron in the audience. Do you think I should be answering that or do you think you should take that?” Even, “I got that question and I’m not sure if that’s the question to be answered here or is there something different for me to do with Ron?”
All of that is putting it on a loudspeaker. Rather than portray an illusion, we express the truth, and here’s the catch. We maintain ourselves as leaders in doing so. That’s important. What does that mean? We do this by sharing in such a way that we aren’t leaving people with the experience that there’s something they need to take care of. For example, if I’m sharing that I’m not super clear where we ought to go next, I’m not sharing that, stopping and staring blankly at my audience, waiting for them to tell me, asking someone to tell me, or whatever.
I share that with them so they understand where I’m at and I choose where we’re going to go from there in the acknowledgment that it may not be the best course of action. That is what a leader does in the face of not knowing. That’s the key. We don’t own this and stop. We continue to lead whilst we own this. That’s what has people deepen their faith in your leadership because they get to both be with your humanity. When we can see someone’s humanity, and they continue to lead and not give up their power in revealing that humanity, we can be like, “I get it. He’s not totally sure, but he’s leading us. Cool. I don’t have to knock down all of these things that he’s put up.”
When we feel someone telling us one thing, but have an experience of them being something different so telling us, “I’ve got this figured out I’m totally clear,” but then we feel underneath that this worry, doubt concern on their part and they don’t own it, we feel the desire to pull that down. I’m sure you’ve had this experience before. It’s the same feeling as when you feel someone lying to you and you want to prove that they’re wrong. Being transparent in your leadership is what heals this and what addresses this.
Here’s another example. In the programs that I run, I often am encountering people’s resistance and the resistance can show up in many ways. It can show up passively. They don’t show up, they hideout, they stay quiet on a conversation and it can also show up with people being a direct opposition to what I bring, arguing with me, and debating, which is ironic, because they paid money to have their blind spots reflected to them and to deepen from there but that’s the way the ego works.
“Show me what I’m doing and I’m going to argue with you why that is not what I’m doing.” It’s like standing in front of your mirror and arguing that is not how my shirt looks with that tie. Sometimes, we need to confront people like that and it drives up a lot of tension, especially in group work. I was doing work with a group of people and there was one person in particular who was very resistant, argumentative, and kept undermining the reflection I was providing to someone.
It’s fine to argue, to have a reaction, it’s even fine to undermine what I’m saying. It’s not they’re wrong for it but I need to address it because it’s having an impact on the room. They’re undermining is having other people doubt this and the other people there for a reason other than to watch someone fight with the person leading something. I took this person on. I address them, I said, “I noticed this is what’s going on. Can I work with you?” “Sure.” It’s an intense conversation because I was supporting them to start to see that they were in a fight but it was a fight with themselves.
As I was doing that, the starting point was that they had created a fight with me. As we went through this, I realized, “I’m scared. This person has real fuck-off energy in their being and it’s scaring me.” I shared that with a group, I said, “Who else is scared right now?” Some people put their hands up, and I said, “I want you to know that I am too. I don’t know how that’s going to go. I’m worried about making a mess. I’m committed to something different for this person and for all of you. I want you to know that’s there and we don’t have to let it stop us.” That’s transparency as a leader where we don’t give our power away. Why does this matter?
On a personal level, you will eradicate imposter syndrome. It doesn’t mean that your fear will vanish but it does mean that you will cease to need to manage your fear and that is almost as good and it’s what we can get to. You’re always going to be afraid. The only way to not be afraid is to shut yourself off from your feelings and make yourself unimpactable by the world. That is a very shallow way to go through the world. You can create money, sacks, affairs, wealth, cars, houses, vacations, you can create all the material stuff that the world has to provide from that place and it will impact you only shallowly. It’ll never be enough.
It’s possible to go without fear but it’s shallow. What I say you can create, if you committed to leadership, you cease to need to manage your fear and your fear ceases to control you. You’ll start to discover that your imposter syndrome is one of your greatest allies. It’s a compass leading you toward the next edge of your leadership and an invitation to step more deeply into modeling leadership at the moment. Whenever you start to feel like, “I’m worried about being an imposter,” that’s a little signal to you saying, “Here’s a place to practice transparency and let everyone see the way a leader operates right through to the core.” That is leadership.
When you give your team’s the gift of your transparency as a leader, they get to see how leadership works rather than seeing the shiny fabricated image of leadership, which is what most of the world is attempting to provide. Your teams will develop a newfound respect for you and you will engender trust in them like no other leader by virtue of the simple fact that you are willing to let them in. Further, your team members will be more willing to share themselves with you because of the clearing for transparency you create yourself as. What I mean by that is when you model being transparent when it’s edgy for you, that will have your people be transparent even and especially when it’s edgy for them.
When you model leadership as shiny, “I’ve got it figured out, I doubt myself but only in a way that’s clean, I doubted myself for a moment but I’ve got it figured out so don’t worry about it,” that’s what you’re going to create in people and that’s not leadership. How do we practice with this? What do you do about any of this? Before you can stop doing something, you have to start seeing how you do it. The irony here is that transparency is our natural state until we’re trained out of it. You’ll notice that children learn quickly, but toddlers are not known for being discreet or for being tactful. They’re known for shouting what is on their mind, “What is on that man’s face? Why is that man doing that thing? What is that woman doing over there?”
They’re transparent. They express. I’m not saying that your role is to be a toddler and to rudely or blatantly blurt out whatever is on your mind, I’m using that as a place to notice that transparency is our natural state. What you can do is you can start to notice the places where you try to put on a show. A show doesn’t mean anything fancy, it simply means you’re operating over top of your fear and trying to keep people from seeing it. See how often you can catch yourself doing this and see if you can catch it in all different ways and different scales.
Notice yourself covering up large fears and notice yourself covering up small fears. Be in the noticing of when you are trying to protect a fear about yourself or something related to yourself from coming to light. Second, you can practice owning your fear. Not pretending it isn’t there and not owning it but reassuring everyone that it’s alright and you don’t need whatever or you don’t need to be afraid, just to own, “I’m afraid right now,” and let people do anything they want with that.
Honoring Your Fear
Typically, especially when people have their own crappy relationship to their fear for example, if someone has a relationship with their fear that it needs to be fixed, when I’m afraid that needs to be resolved so I don’t feel afraid anymore, they’ll bring that to you. If you say, “I’m a little afraid now,” they’ll go, “You don’t need to be afraid,” and that’s fine. Your job as a leader is not to make them wrong for that but instead stand in your own strength, “I know that I don’t need anything but it feels good over here to honor that I am afraid. I’m letting you know so that I’m letting you in.” Back to what we’re doing. That’s how you hold the stance of a leader. You maintain your power in the face of that.
Trying to explain or rationalize our fear away never works. What I mean by that is when people say, “I’m afraid of this, but I know that I don’t need to be. I’m sure that people wouldn’t say that thing so I don’t even know why I’m afraid of it.” Your fear could care less about your rationality. Your fear is irrational. That is the nature of fear. You know this because it’s in the future and the future is not determined yet. You can argue, “There’s evidence,” and that’s not the point. Your fears are rational and the way it works. Trying to rationalize it, never works. At best, it will let you get up into your head and into your thinking in order to escape the feeling of fear that is deeper down. What that does over time, it starts to become anxiety. That’s generally how anxiety is created. It’s because you keep retreating up in your head, thinking about it distancing and disconnecting from your fear until that’s all you can do.
Finally, notice when the way you’ve shared your fear creates and cause in people around you, a need to take care of you. If you share your fear you’ve got a bunch of people saying, “It’s okay,” taking care of you, patting your head, and saying, “I’m so sorry,” you are possibly sharing your fear in a way that is not allowing you to maintain your power as a leader. We’re walking a bit of a tightrope. The tightrope is on the one side of the road. On the one side, we’ve got impenetrability, imperviousness, and unimpactable. You’re never afraid and you’ve always got it sorted out. Even when you share that you’re afraid there’s no real meat to the fear. It’s just you saying words to be a good leader. You’re trying to practice this without honoring the fear that’s there, and without being willing to feel it.
On the other side, you have people that are crying puddles of mess. They’re like, “I’m afraid,” and hang out there until people take care of them. That’s not powerful and the tightrope you’re walking is owning the fear, honoring that it’s there not pretending otherwise. Allowing yourself to feel it, and still taking action a leader does to move things forward. The real difference in that last piece is between leaving people with something they need to take care of versus a transparent expression and a commitment to continue leading.
That’s what you’re aiming towards. Notice when you leave people with something different. When you’re like, “A lot of people seem to take care of me after that. A lot of people seem to fix me, maybe there’s a different way for me to own this.” Do this and you will create ever-deepening trust amongst your teams. This is such a powerful tool to be able to bring to people. I shouldn’t have said your teams but with everyone.
When people are willing to share fear this way, it creates tremendous shifts. Briefly, I’ll share a story. This is a story about the fact that not everyone will appreciate this because a lot of people have created a business, a life, a whole structure around not having this happen around not having to show their fear. I traveled across the country to do some work with an oil and gas company, where myself, my wife and a few other people were doing some leadership work with their teams. A large team in this large oil and gas company in Canada. We’re out for dinner the night before any of this happened and the person that brought us in shared, “I’m quite nervous. I’m quite afraid of this. I’m scared.”
The person on our team that was focused more on sales training said, “You don’t have to be afraid at all. We’ve totally got this. We’ve got this handled.” I looked and I noticed that the person across from us those words didn’t have much of an effect and an impact. I shared with this person, “I’m afraid too. It’s crazy and edgy. I don’t know your team. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know where they’re at. I trust ourselves.” I want to honor your fear. I totally get it. I’ve got some of that too. The salesperson on our team hated that. He felt that had violated the trust that person had in us because now they knew that we were afraid. If there’s anything you take from this conversation, I want to invite you to consider that trust is not built by pretending that you are something other than what you are. Trust is built by being willing to be transparent so practice creating trust.
In the next episode, we’re going to be talking about insights versus breakthroughs and we’ll probably talk about breakdowns as well because those two things often hang out. If you have been reading these conversations, and you find that they lift you up, inspire you, create in you this drive, or this desire to go deeper, I want to invite you to reach out to connect with me, or to sign up for The Forge. We start in September. We began with twelve spots available.
It is a life-changing transformational program. We’ve increased the length of it so we can go deeper. It’s now a nine-month program and runs from September through May. It’s all done virtually and you don’t need to do it in person, although there is a retreat that is going to be incredible and is at no extra cost to you. If that is something that you’re interested in if you like the idea of creating some transformation of a program that doesn’t give you more to think about but causes your leadership and your transformation, this might be the place for you. You can read more at www.EverGrowthCoaching.com/the-forge. It’s going to be amazing. We’re super excited about the people that have signed up, we love this work and we think you will too. Bye for now. See you.