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7 phrases a transparent leader would never use

3 min read


Transparency. It’s not just a business buzzword, it’s a way of life in today’s world. For a business to stay alive and garner respect in the community, transparency is a vital necessity. What does that mean? Being open and honest about your business practices and using straightforward communication.

Most importantly, transparency begins from the top down. The transparency of senior leadership can make or break an organization.


To be a truly transparent leader, it’s time to remove these seven phrases from your vocabulary:

  1. I can’t share that information.” If it’s sensitive information, a transparent leader would explain further why it can’t be shared and what’s at risk if it gets out. If possible, it’s always a good idea to bring a time aspect into the equation, such as, “I can’t share that information at this time. Here’s why, and when we will be able to make that available.”
  2. That doesn’t matter.” As a leader, it’s your job to care, both about your organization and the employees who help keep it running smoothly. Writing something off as not being important, no matter how trivial something may seem, implies disinterest as a leader.
  3. Why would they need to know that?” Regardless of whether or not the individual needs to know the information, the phrase sounds unprofessional. Stay tactful. Saying, “I don’t believe that information is relevant to our current project. Let’s discuss (blank) instead.” is a good way to avoid the issue while staying professional.
  4. We don’t…” Consistently hearing “we don’t,” “we can’t,” or “we won’t” can be very defeating. Instead, say what you CAN do, whether it’s working toward an objective or helping to establish realistic achievements.
  5. That wasn’t our fault.” Part of transparency is accountability. If something went wrong and your organization was involved, honesty is always the best policy. Avoid playing the blame game and simply say what happened and what your organization is doing to fix the problem and ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future.
  6. That’s not possible.” As a leader, it’s your job to inspire new ways of thinking and problem solving. Consistently saying no can be tough on morale. Try, “That’s not something we currently do, but it’s an interesting idea. We’ll keep it in mind for the future. In the meantime, let’s talk about something we can help you with.” If the idea will truly never be possible, be sure to explain why as thoroughly as you can.
  7. You can’t do that.” Communication is both internal and external, and a transparent leader needs to consider the needs of their employees. Every company has policies and rules, but it’s better to explain why they exist instead of flat-out telling an employee what they can and can’t do.

The key to being transparent is being sincere, honest and open, especially when it comes to communication.

What do you think makes a transparent leader? Are there any keywords or phrases missing from this list?

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, a talent-alignment platform that bridges the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals. You can connect with him and the ClearCompany team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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