The following is a guest post, courtesy of Conor Delaney. Conor founded Good Life Advisors in 2012 based on the impetus to promote a financial services culture dedicated to the client and the individual advisors, rather than a culture of sales and corporate profits.
Fiduciary responsibility is a two-way street paved with trust. Trust that the client is clear on his or her goals, and that the investment advisor’s plan to achieve them is well-defined. With a complete disregard for ambiguity, trust demands transparency. An authentic broker-investor relationship is a microcosm of transparent leadership because a fiduciary duty epitomizes the highest of standards.
As a leader, my role in my company and in my community is to speak intelligently about the causes, values, and ideologies in which I believe. If those resonate, people may get onboard. If for any reason they do not strike a chord, then the onus rests completely on me; any failure to articulately inspire is solely my responsibility.
In this scenario, I am the communicator. I am the one who stood up and stated: I am leading, you should follow. This was not a request made of me; it was instead a role I assumed.
Whether a potential leader is a religious one, a political icon, or a corporate magnate, the gold standard of influence remains the same: 1) I am a leader, these are the tenets of my belief system. 2) Here is the supporting evidence corroborating these tenets. 3) Allow me to introduce my plan to move our congregation, political party, or business interests forward based on these tenets.
At the risk of sounding negative, I do not think most people in leadership positions are transparent. They often do not stick to what they believe at their core and they spend most of their life worrying about being “politically correct” while intentionally framing words, actions, and reactions in a manner that always offers them an escape route.
Why have we become a country SO worried about every word and every action? It is because a faux pas will cause the next day’s headlines to write themselves? Because efforts to recant become a story that itself takes on a life of its own? Is it then time to send in the clowns because the media circus is on its way into town? Tents and all?
No matter how intelligent and articulate and focused a human can be, we are not omnipotent. Because it is IMPOSSIBLE to be right all of the time, a leader should be both humbled when he is wrong and should always be willing to grow, learn, and evolve in those instances rather than imposing his personal agenda or pivoting with a new message crafted to avoid being viewed as wrong or imperfect. I believe that transparent leadership embraces this truth.
The core of transparency is found in leading by example. Not from the back, not from the side, but from the front. If you stand behind the microphone before your company at the annual shareholders meeting and pontificate about principles, but don’t actually live by those principles, then you are a performer. You are not a leader. You are scripted, you are deceptive.
Being transparent means your behavior in your real life must underscore the statements you made from that podium. Your actions will ALWAYS speak louder than your words. Then and only then will your leadership have integrity, not be built upon empty platitudes.
Transparent leadership is devoid of editing. You must be genuine or all is lost. For my business partner and myself, the premise behind launching a company like Good Life Advisors was to offer a true independence to experienced financial advisors so they could transparently lead their clients. To do that, they must be able to operate unfettered by preconceived plans or flavor-of-the-month investment vehicles. They have to dwell in a financial services culture that is objective, unbiased, and dedicated to the client; not to sales and corporate profits. Hidden agendas are the bane of transparency.