Most scholars and experts claim transparency is necessary for good leadership. Many books on leadership have sections and chapters devoted to the issue of transparency. Unless you work for an organization like the CIA, transparency is often among the top characteristics requested of leaders. Of course, even organizations built on the foundation of secrecy have gotten into trouble for lack of transparency.
Transparency is a healthy leadership characteristic. But why? In the context of a local church, what does a transparent pastor encourage, as opposed to one who is not? What do transparent leaders gain, and what do secretive leaders lose?
Transparent leaders encourage generosity, while secretive leaders raise unnecessary financial questions. When your church knows how the money is spent, givers are inclined to be more generous. Good stewardship does not mean the church has to be austere. But good stewards are always transparent.
Transparent leaders encourage the church to take risks, while secretive leaders make people afraid to fail. Obviously, leaders want to avoid failure as much as possible. And failure due to sin is always wrong. However, if your team never fails, then it means no one is doing anything. Worse still, hiding failures will erode the strength of a church and ultimately cause a collapse. When you are transparent, and your team is transparent with you, you build a culture where it’s okay to fail. Attempting great things means having a few failures along the way. Transparent pastors give their staff and ministry leaders room to fail and get stronger.
Transparent leaders encourage levity, while secretive leaders create channels of gossip and rumors. When you can be yourself, you laugh more. When everyone in a ministry is transparent about who they are, a culture of levity is created. Conversely, secrets are a fuel source for gossip. A lack of transparency stimulates the rumor mill. A ministry team that laughs together will often do more for the gospel. Besides, it’s awkward being the one person laughing in a room full of empty stares. So laugh more together.
Transparent leaders encourage accountability, while secretive leaders breed a culture of distrust. Openness facilitates accountability. Secrecy raises suspicions. True transparency inevitably leads to accountability. Transparent church leaders gravitate towards tighter systems of accountability. Those who suppress the truth typically want to stretch the truth.
What is the difference between confidentiality and secrecy? Confidentiality serves and protects another person or a group of people. Secrecy is a way to protect yourself. Keeping confidence is selfless. Secrecy is selfish. You have much to gain with transparency and much to lose with secrecy.