Is Openness Worth the Risk?

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For many people, being open is difficult; it doesn’t come naturally. If you want to be a leader, however, you need to work at it, even if it’s not your preference. Openness is worth the effort because it brings many benefits to the task of leadership.

  • Openness creates authentic relationships. When you model openness in your own life, you encourage openness in the people you lead. If you are distant and reserved, others get the message that being distant and reserved is what is expected. Daily routines become hollow and people don’t really connect with one another. Openness, on the other hand, creates space for people to be authentic.
  • Openness enables you to deal with false and hurtful criticism. Leadership is not easy. People will let you down, sometimes even those closest to you. One of the discouragements that new leaders quickly discover is the viciousness with which people can sometimes attack your performance or your ideas. In leadership, you have to develop a thick skin without developing a hard heart and that’s not easy. Your openness will cause some to criticize your thinking and judge your behavior. They may even use it against you. As a leader, this will eventually happen anyway and openness allows you to learn how to respond constructively.
  • Openness enables learning. It enables you to expose your ideas while being exposed to the ideas of others. Without openness, learning stalls and you become unresponsive to people’s needs and perspectives. Openness also enables the group to consider alternative solutions and learn from its mistakes.
  • Openness sets the stage for an ethical career. In today’s world of corporate scandals, the laser rays of public scrutiny are constantly active. Companies are forced to open their books and to be accountable to the community at large. The organization cannot and should not try to escape from this trend. By learning openness in your personal life, you prepare yourself for the transparency that is needed for ethical accountability in the future.
  • Openness helps others to trust you. Trust opens the door for new opportunities to lead and these opportunities then expand your capacity for leadership. Instead of a vicious cycle, openness can generate a virtuous cycle of transparency, trust, and growth.
  • Openness releases untapped creativity. People who keep their ideas to themselves block their own creative potential. Exposing your ideas to public critique forces you to look at problems from different perspectives. By being open, you experience the courage to learn and take on new challenges. This ability to innovate and create is a key to your capacity development in leadership.


While it may be contrary to your natural inclinations, your efforts to be open with your strengths, weakness, and ideas will pay off in the end. You may not be able to do it on your own, though. So be prepared, if necessary, to invest in some professional coaching to help you dismantle the barriers that keep you closed.


First published as an Ezine Article, April 12, 2011:
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