The One Secret of Highly Successful Leaders
April 13, 2015

The One Secret of Highly Successful Leaders

by Brian de Haaff

I have always had a hard time not being myself. This trait has mostly served me well, but sometimes it annoys people who expect me to be their version of a leader. Some people think they need to be a caricature of themselves to do well.

Some leaders try to act like Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett because they assume it is the right path to success. They may not even be aware that they are hiding behind a facade as they try to be a person who they are not.

However, highly successful leaders choose a different way to lead, and it’s a radical departure from this idea of the carefully crafted persona. They understand that if they want others to follow them, they need to pull back the curtain.

Think for a moment about successful leaders you know. They are charismatic. They draw people in. They are not afraid to show their true selves. They are real. I do my best to be the real Brian as the CEO of Aha! (product roadmap software).

Successful leaders do not hide their goals and their motives. They broadcast them. For example, we give every employee direct access to the Aha! operating plan and share our key customer, revenue, and expense information. We do this because we believe that better insight into the business creates a greater sense of ownership.

So that was a big hint — I believe the one secret of highly successful leaders is transparency.

Here are a few reasons why being transparent can help you be a better leader.

Establishes confidence Transparency serves as a model for how you want the team to work. You will find that others will want to engage with you. Sharing not only the goal but how you arrived at the conclusion allows others to get on board, think things through, and grow stronger themselves.

Creates buy-in You choose to share the goals with your team — but you also choose to explain why those goals matter. That means sharing your thought process — your assumptions and conclusions that you have brought to bear in making a decision. When you are willing to share the “why” with the “what” you help create buy-in from your team.

Builds trust When you are transparent with employees, you show respect for their efforts. It’s that simple. And respect builds trust. Being transparent is about being open and honest about your motivations and decisions. If you operate from the premise that what you see is what you get, you will build stronger, trusting teams.

Transparency goes hand in hand with humility. When you are transparent, you bring your authentic self to play. You are saying, ‘this is what I believe, and why I believe that.’

Transparency is the currency that is used to acquire trust. It is an investment that also requires you to be open to the possibility that you might be wrong. Someone else may have a better way or another idea. Someone may correct a misconception that you have. Can you accept that?

What does being transparent mean to you?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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