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Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor Hardcover – May 19, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"...would not be out of place in the executive reading room." (Edge, October 2008)

From the Inside Flap


In a time when the reputation of an organization or a leader can be shattered by the click of a mouse, transparency is often a matter of survival in a world of global competition. But as stakeholders in different organizations increasingly clamor for transparency, what are they truly asking for? What is the promise of transparency? What are its very real risks? And why is it essential that leaders understand it? In this book, distinguished authors Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O'Toole explore what it means to be a transparent leader, create a transparent organization, and live in an ever more transparent world culture.

In three interconnected essays, they examine transparency from three different vantage points—within and between organizations, in terms of personal responsibility, and finally, in the context of the new digital reality—all with an emphasis on how these relate to leaders and leadership. The first essay explores an urgent dilemma for every contemporary leader: how to create a culture of candor. The second essay—with the provocative title "Speaking Truth to Power"—discusses a prerequisite for transparency and a responsibility we too often fail to fulfill. The final essay explores how digital technology is making the entire world more transparent.

Combining theory and experience, this book offers both a long view of transparency and a wealth of practical advice. The ideas in each chapter will make anyone both a better follower and a better leader.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (May 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470278765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470278765
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Steven Kirkpatrick on June 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am rarely disappointed with a book as much as I was with Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor. This short book is a series of three essays that might be well described as philosophical meanderings about the virtues of being truthful, honest, and open in dealing with others. It offers little in the way of insight, and even less in terms of wisdom. We learn, for example, how the internet makes it more difficult for governments, as well as political and business leaders to keep secrets (!). The book also has a heavy political bias, which is neither informative nor persuasive.

For example, readers are given numerous examples of how republicans are not open and forthright in their dealings with the public, but democrats generally are honest and reliable. Oh, please! Such is the extent of the authors' scholarly work. For example, readers are treated to a story about how the Board of Directors of Hollinger International spent $8 million to purchase papers relating to Franklin D. Roosevelt; this was indeed a very questionable transaction of dubious value to Hollinger's shareholders. But only one board member is identified by the author, and is singled out for his failures: Henry Kissinger, a stalwart Republican.

Other examples of political bias abound: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld are also harshly criticized in the first essay, along with Henry Kissinger and the CIA, while Bill Clinton is praised for his open leadership style. The source notes in the back of the book are also somewhat revealing. The most frequently cited source is The New York Times, not exactly a bastion of conservative thinking.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Errol D. Alexander on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book takes on the difficult task of explaining the links between the reality- truth of a situation, cohesiveness of a group to accept truth, the abilities of leadership to embrace candor, and the perceptions of followers to create a culture of trust. A well researched book and a good read for indicating how the culture of being open in a group must be created and maintained. After all, trust and truth are the building tools in any relationship.

To that aim, the writers attempt to explain how in a mini-second that a conflict of differing views arises either from within or outside the leader-follower structure, must be dealt with promptly. It outlines as a test of leadership why and how certain strategies and tools should be considered. Lying, denying to confessing are some options leaders have used in the past. But how should one as a leader deal with the unvarnished truth is the question? Above all, the emotional feeling of trust must be maintained or the leader-follower relationship is damaged.

This book gives examples how leaders (in business, and in government) need to create a culture of candor amongst their followers. The old saw that good and honest managers are the last to know when there is a serious problem, is regrettably too accurate. Yet, the bad managers or deniers of the truth are the first to know as they often created the problem. When humans make an error, the key personal questions of ethics and integrity facing all members in a group are... should they tell others about it or cover it up? Why should they?... as generally there are no emotional or financial guerdons in telling the truth. Unfortunately most culture in organizations allow the creators of a problem either to deny it existence or to downplay its importance.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O'Toole are three of the most influential business thinkers in recent years and, with Patricia Ward Biederman, collaborated on this book that consists of three separate but related essays: "Creating a Culture of Candor" (Bennis, Goleman, and Biederman examine transparency with and between organizations), "Speaking Truth to Power" (O'Toole shares his perspectives on transparency in terms of personal responsibility), and "The New Transparency" (Bennis explains how digital technology is making the entire world transparent). According to Thomas Friedman, the world has become flat as a result of forces that "are empowering more and more individuals today to reach farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before, and that is equalizing power - and equalizing opportunity, by giving so many more people the tools to connect, compete, and collaborate." Bennis, Goleman, O'Toole and Biederman agree. The first essay suggests how the same "flattening forces" to which Friedman refers also have a profound impact on relationships between and among organizations throughout the world. In the second essay, O'Toole eloquently as well as convincingly stresses the importance of responsibility and (yes) accountability of everyone who is involved in those relationships. Then in the third essay, Bennis shares his insights concerning the most significant consequences of technology, given the fact that "leaders are losing their monopoly on power, and this has positive impacts - notably the democratization of power - as well as some negative ones."

In the Preface, Bennis notes that this book really isn't about technology. "It is about the things that have mattered since the new technology was the flint and the longbow - courage, integrity, candor, responsibility.
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