Leading with Openness: L.O.V.E. at Work

December 18th 2015

CPA and law firms can feel like secret societies. Executive Committees meet behind closed doors. Partners have their own exclusive retreats. The real requirements for becoming a partner are mysterious and undocumented. Somebody gets fired, everybody gets an email, and nobody ever discusses what happened.

We seem to thrive on secrecy, mostly I think because it makes us feel important and like we have a competitive edge. This top secret stuff is on a need to know basis, and we’re in the know. You’re not? You must not be important enough, but I am and I’m powerful. 

The only thing we’re accomplishing with this approach is the creation of a sense of exclusion. Exclusion doesn’t build strong teams or cultures.

Leading with openness falls into at least two categories: operational and personal.


Leading with operational openness is a matter of breaking down old habits. It means reporting out to the team what happened at partner retreats, at Executive Committee meetings, or after someone is let go from your firm. Do you have to report every detail? No. Do you need to report what’s relevant, and do it quickly? Yes. Here’s why: people will create a story if you don’t give them one. And their stories will very nearly always be more dramatic and destructive than the truth.

<span style="\&quot;font-family:tahoma,geneva,sans-serif;" font-size:12px\"="">When your firm operates openly, everyone hears the same information. You don’t have to worry about who knows what. That’s a tremendous relief from a heavy burden.


Personal openness is revealing information about your life, how you feel, and how you think. It is allowing people to understand what makes you tick. It need not involve tears and hugging; it’s simply about sharing things about yourself that help people understand you. 

When you are personally open, people have the opportunity to understand you, and they can begin to trust you. When they have an idea who you are, they can  give you the benefit of the doubt when you behave outside your leadership norm. 

By leading with openness, you open a window for more trust, better communication, and more engagement. All of these things contribute to stability and growth, which enrich your experience as a leader and increase happiness in your firm.

leadership, communication, management


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