How to Lead with Transparency


It is no secret, or accident, that Buffer, a social media management software company, is a very transparent company. It is a transparent company because resources have been assigned and culture has been instilled to lead with transparency. They are not only transparent when things are good, but they are also transparent when things are bad.

The type of person who thrives in a transparent environment is someone who is curious. Someone who wants to find information and who is willing to look for that information themselves. Ultimately, someone who is open to that level of transparency.

Hailley Griffis is the head of communications and content at Buffer. She is also a co-host of MakeWorkWork, a podcast about career growth, creative work and striving to be better. For people who are new to the concept of working in a transparent environment, Hailley acknowledges that it can be extremely overwhelming from a couple of different standpoints.

Say you just joined Buffer and are logging in for the first time; you get access to everything all at once. Email systems, documents, project files, notes from everything and even everyone’s calendar. This can be overwhelming from a sense of where to start and how to dig through what is important and relevant.

It can also be overwhelming for the person who has decided to be transparent as they must hold themselves to that line. It takes a lot of work and many people don't always know just how much work this effective leadership skill takes.


Have you read: Weapons of Social Seduction (How We Make Decisions) – Phill Agnew


At Buffer, they share early and often. There is no question why they have made a certain decision as they will tell you, or you will be able to figure it out based on all the things that have been published on their website. Buffer clients appreciate this as it allows them to assess whether the tool still aligns with their needs.

Internally, sharing early and often also allows more effective collaboration. Hailley believes that sharing early is the power of transparent leadership. It allows you to gather more feedback, you can level up as a leader and learn from others. “I think, [transparency is] a secret to unlocking more potential, to unlocking more trust in organizations, to making it easier for everyone to collaborate and just building a team that is very efficient; they know what's going on,” says Hailley.


Have you read: Building High Performing Teams – Tim Ferguson


What is required to lead with transparency?

Trust needs to be established for transparency to be really effective. People coming into Buffer will see that there is a high level of trust, transparency and people leading by example. You can join in and have a lot of really solid examples of how to do transparency right because you can definitely overshare. There is always a risk that the level of transparency, especially the level of transparency at Buffer, is just not everyone's cup of tea and there are also privacy concerns when it comes to transparency. That's very real.

People love knowing as much as they do about Buffer. It is not uncommon to receive feedback that people know more about Buffer than they do about the company they work for – right down to the staff salaries which are listed on the public website next to each person’s name.

The complete interview where you can learn more about how to lead with transparency can be listened to here, on audio platforms, or watched here, on The Culture of Leadership (TCoL) YouTube channel.


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