Trustworthy leadership may not seem like the easiest option, but it always makes the most sense. Honesty and trust allow leaders to motivate, inspire, empower, and involve their employees better than any other technique or leadership attitude. Find out how to cultivate honesty in your leadership and what challenges you may have to overcome. 

“Honesty is always the best policy.” – George Washington. 

It is also the best way to build trust and respect in any relationship. Trust, the indispensable ingredient of successful, trustworthy leadership, is about the confidence people have in those who lead them and the reliance that stems from this confidence.

People who trust their leaders believe that they always act in the best interest of their organizations and employees. 

trust truth

Honesty is the foundation of trust.

Transparency is the foundation of trust and trustworthy leadership. It involves honest, open communication and readily available insights into the purpose and goals of the organization. Transparent leadership is eager to communicate. The employees of transparent leaders understand what they have to do, how, and why. Transparent leaders communicate their decisions and the rationale they’ve used to make them.

A work environment focusing on honesty and transparency creates involved, engaged employees eager to contribute their feedback while feeling like valuable assets and active contributors to the success of the organization.

The benefits of transparency and honesty aren’t limited to employees and organizational cultures. They extend to clients, other stakeholders, and the community to which the organization belongs.

In this article, I detail the role and benefits of honesty and transparency in leadership. I discuss how you can cultivate these leadership traits from the unique perspective of an active leadership coaching professional. I also help you overcome the challenges you may meet when practicing honesty and transparency.

The Role of Honesty in Leadership

Honesty is the cornerstone of every healthy human relationship and leadership. It allows leaders to achieve three essential objectives:

  • Build trust
  • Build credibility
  • Create positive organizational cultures

Integrity and Ethics

In many ways, integrity is like consistent honesty. Leaders, who value and observe integrity, act according to a set of moral and ethical principles. Their consistency allows them to be predictable in behavior, values, and decision-making. Predictability allows their employees to model their behaviors after their leaders and achieve outcomes aligned with the values and aspirations of their organizations.

Building Credibility

Honest leadership is credible leadership. People know that honesty means truthfulness and consistent alignment of word and deed. And they understand that honest leaders voice opinions worthy of their respect. Therefore, employees feel moral freedom and obligation to follow credible leaders’ guidance and support their initiatives.

Fostering a Culture of Trust

Honest leadership is a powerful facilitator of healthy organizational cultures. Honest leaders boost employee engagement and psychological safety by:

  • Communicating effectively
  • Building genuine relationships
  • Leading by example
  • Holding themselves and others accountable
  • Fostering a sense of stability through trust

The Importance of Transparency in Leadership

Transparent leaders are clear communicators and open, honest decision-makers. They share information with all stakeholders and are open to feedback. Leadership transparency fosters trust by aligning words with actions and defining roles clearly within organizations.

open communication

Open communication is a leadership superpower.

Open Communication

Open communication is one of the cornerstones of effective leadership. Transparent leaders share information about successes and failures alike, involving their employees and accountholders in the process of learning from the latter. Open communication promotes an inclusive environment where people understand expectations and feel encouraged to contribute.

Building Accountability

By involving others in the analysis of failures, transparent leaders take responsibility for their decisions and hold themselves and others accountable. Their main goal is to learn from failures and not deflect or manage responsibility. By holding themselves accountable, leaders inspire others in the organization to follow suit.

Enhancing Engagement

An informed employee is much more likely to become an involved employee than someone kept in the dark. People who understand the expectations of their jobs are more likely to assume psychological ownership of organizational goals and responsibility for their contributions. Those who see their contributions make a difference buy into objectives easily, to the point of taking the initiative.

The Benefits of Trustworthy Leadership

Trustworthy leadership boosts organizational performance on many fronts. As a leadership coaching professional, I know there’s scientific and statistical evidence supporting these claims. And I know that organizational cultures built upon trust lead to:

  • Less stress
  • More energy
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Improved engagement
  • Fewer sick days
  • Less burnout
  • Higher employee satisfaction

The obvious benefits of trustworthy leadership hide a litany of other, more subtle benefits that organizations and people exposed to this type of leadership enjoy.

Improved Morale and Loyalty

The value of positive employee morale is difficult to appraise due to its far-reaching ramifications. When they permeate an organizational culture, transparency and honesty can boost morale directly and indirectly. People who understand the values and purpose of their organizations and their place in the grand scheme find it easy to motivate themselves.

Better Decision-making

The environment of integrity and trust that transparency and honesty create is conducive to better decision-making. Here’s how trustworthy leadership leads to more ethical and consistent decisions:

  • Accurate information. Better communication, openness, and honesty allow leaders to gain access to more accurate information.
  • Clarity and accountability. Leaders who assume responsibility for their failures and focus on learning from them make better decisions.
  • Transparent, honest leadership prioritizes organizational values, standards, and purpose, leading to predictably aligned decisions.
  • Diverse perspectives. Open dialogue leads to diverse feedback and perspectives. Considering the diverse contributions of their employees allows leaders to make better decisions.

Enhanced Reputation

Organizational cultures predicated on transparency and honesty are attractive to everyone. Honesty is inherently fair. Transparency is empowering. Accountability, reliability, and trust boost credibility and mitigate risks stemming from various crises and challenges.

Resilient organizations that observe these values enjoy outstanding reputations among would-be employees and partners.

Cultivating Honesty and Transparency

Honesty and transparency may represent the most straightforward and logical route to success, but not everyone possesses the self-awareness and long-term perspective to realize and acknowledge this fact.

As a leadership coaching professional, I don’t just tell my clients what they should do. I aim to provide them with practical ways to achieve their goals. Here’s what you can do to cultivate honesty and transparency as your fundamental leadership traits.

Communicate Openly

Skillful communication is one of the fundamental aspects of leadership. Open communication allows you to share information about your decision-making, organizational goals and purpose, challenges, and strategies. It also lets you discuss your successes and failures, encouraging others to contribute their feedback.

Lead By Example

Actions always speak louder than words. To boost your transparency and honesty as a leader, adopt behaviors you would like to see in your employees.

  • Be consistent in aligning your actions with your values.
  • Take responsibility for failures.
  • Admit your shortcomings and mistakes.
  • Observe high standards of integrity.

Solicit Feedback

Diverse feedback allows you to make better decisions. Soliciting feedback from employees also encourages them to contribute and empowers them by allowing them to gain psychological ownership of organizational goals and values. When backed by a culture of trust and open communication, back-and-forth feedback becomes an essential decision-making and employee engagement tool.


Two-way feedback is the key to improvement.

Overcoming Challenges

In the context of leadership, there are always challenges you must overcome when embracing change. Some of the common challenges in practicing honesty and transparency are:

  • Sometimes, leaders must keep sensitive information confidential. Striking the right balance between the free flow of information and addressing privacy concerns is a case-specific problem.
  • Communication snags. Leaders may deal with complex information or difficult truths. Language barriers and cultural differences may also hinder optimal communication. To overcome these problems, leaders must be clear about their motives, intentions, and decision-making.
  • Concern about repercussions. Relaying information about failures, setbacks, or unpopular decisions may lead to loss of trust, upheaval, and loud dissent. The best way leaders can handle this challenge is to remain honest and transparent despite the negative consequences they may face.
  • Cultural resistance. Some organizational cultures are less than optimal. Others may be downright toxic, having developed a tolerance for manipulation. Changing cultures takes time, but abandoning honesty to avoid pushback is never a solution.


“Honesty is often very hard. The truth is often painful. But the freedom it can bring is worth the trying.” – Fred Rogers.

Honesty and transparency confer powers few people can handle. Leaders must be such people. Honesty and transparency are their best tools to build trust, empower and engage others, lead by example, and create organizational cultures conducive to long-term, sustainable success.

As a leadership coach, I find that few time and resource-wise investments are as rewarding as cultivating honesty and transparency. People are sensitive to these leadership traits and reward those wielding them with trust and loyalty.

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