How far will you go for Trust? Taking Risks over Transparency.

Photo by Vincentiu Solomon on Unsplash

During one of my routine train excursions to Amsterdam for work, I was listening to the Financial Times podcast, FT Tech Tonic. One episode ‘trust in the digital age’ got me to writing this post. The discussion was on how trust has been damaged between consumer and company, with scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica Scandal leading the way, it caught my attention.

Now, being Mark Zuckerberg is far off for most of us, however, what can be learned on trust in this new era of digital transformation in our own leadership? Let's face it, our personal data is far more public than ever before and it makes all of us question more what is the true intent of a company when we involve our data, is it really safe when we put it in? Could this same distrust have an effect on those we lead and those we follow as well?

I believe that as digital disruption continues to transform the business landscape then it naturally reflects in our social interactivity as well. As it has been proven in 2018 that digital technologies can have a detrimental effect, The Center for Humane Technology even-

“warned of the ill effects of social networks and smartphones “hijacking our minds and society.”

Therefore, there is a connection between technology and our personal lives. With some likelihood then an issue of trust between customer to an organization could happen between us then possibly there could be distrust between any form of hierarchy in our life as well. Perhaps not intentionally, but the seed will already be planted.

Why is this topic important? If you have any form of leadership or responsibility then you will know the vital importance of trust. For me over the years, to answer the problem of distrust my leadership mantra was to ensure ‘transparency’. This statement that I would say at home may ring true in your own life- ‘what is required, right now is a greater level of transparency to build trust’.

Well, Rachel Botsman who was the interviewee on the podcast stated that transparency and trust do not go together. I was surprised to hear this. However, continuing on in the podcast, it became very clear that risk and trust is the true relationship here. Transparency eliminates risk, without risk there is no trust.

As Rachel Botsman wonderfully explained trust is the-

‘Confident relationship of the unknown- a beautiful alchemy between expectation and vulnerabilities. Not knowing the outcome’.

We use transparency to simplify systems or thought processes to express to others the reliability of our decisions, our reason of: ‘why we do what we do’. Have you experienced this? A consistent requirement to over explain what decisions you make as a leader? However, this transparency provides no standpoint for trust. In fact there is truth in what Rachel went on to say, which I have seen in my own leadership experience, when you have people that ‘do not believe in the system’ then they will question who can be relied on, despite your transparency, their voices will rise up instead speaking from a point of fear and providing a toxic environment in a team.

In fact, for trust to work between teams and leadership then the dependency on taking the risk to cultivate trust is the answer. Risk does not have to be at a detriment to others in the workplace, risk can simply be relying on someone else to complete a task for you.

Photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash

There is one main character trait, suggested by Rachel that will stand the test through risk:


The ability to be free of deceit, remain truthful, sincere with strong moral principles in our leadership is in line with a leader’s hope to act on the best of a person’s well being. If an individual you lead knows your intentions are true then you do not need transparency.

So, some next steps you may consider in your own leadership-

  1. Where do you stand in this? Do you believe in the power of transparency, if so where in your working relationships do you invoke trust through risk?
  2. Who do you lead who lacks in trust? Rather than suggesting that they lack trust, take a risk and ask them to complete something for you, as a leader you can take responsibility to develop trust in your working relationships, and it may provide an opportunity to speak to them about their concerns.
  3. Let go of transparency and stand true to building truthful conversations and know what is morally right as you lead your teams.
  4. Communicate with other influencers in your teams, see where they have the opportunity to take calculated risks to promote trust.

Overall, risk facilitates trust, transparency suffocates it. This is a great time at the start of the year to grab hold of this, watch trust in your teams grow this year through the adventure.