Taking the “Golden Rule” of Transparency to the Golden Age of Transparency

Transparency is many things to many people. It is easier for any individual to define what transparency is not than what it is. We often immediately gravitate to the concern about the harm transparency might create and use that fear as an excuse to avoid the concept in its entirety.

Transparency is often equated to honesty. Honesty is a more fearful trait as expressed by the musician Dave Van Ronk “Honesty is the cruelest game of all, because not only can you hurt someone – and hurt them to the bone – you can feel self-righteous about it at the same time.” Transparency is different than honesty as it is the management of honesty. Transparency, in its most useful capacity, is summarized in both the Hippocratic advice of “do no harm” and the “Golden Rule.” The concept of “do no harm” is usually mistakenly attributed to the oath first prescribed by Hippocrates as a basic ethical guideline for physicians. Hippocrates did say this in his works Of The Epidemics, and the term has been recognized as a theorem to be many applications as a general rule of civility. “Do no harm” in its simplest of interpretation is to ensure the safety of physical and emotional well-being of both the giver and receiver of an action or communication. The concept of “do no harm” should be an easy litmus test to apply to any effort or emotion, but it is not as easy in practice as a theory. “Do no harm” is a very low standard to apply on its own because the justification to do nothing can be easily reached. But, when “do no harm” is concomitantly implemented with the “Golden Rule” a different paradigm emerges that reinforces transparency as a management tool for honesty. The “Golden Rule” is a philosophy most attributed to the biblical reference of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). Similar versions of this philosophy are found in many religions reinforcing the commonality of its usefulness as an ethical barometer for action or communication. By itself, though, it is also a low standard. Just like “do no harm,” no self-sacrifice is asked, and the opportunity for apathy is more easily attained than the opportunity for action, but empathy is achieved. By applying both philosophies to the concept of honesty, one develops a better construct to provide transparency in a productive fashion.

The goal of trust transparency is to provide a useful and productive rationale for ethics of action and communication.

The goal of trust transparency is to provide a useful and productive rationale for ethics of action and communication. Whereas the concept of providing action and dialogue on a “need to know basis” is a natural philosophy to adhere it is insufficient to the development of trust transparency. Howard Schultz said “I think the currency of leadership is transparency. You’ve got to be truthful. I don’t think you should be vulnerable every day, but there are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.” Transparency is an emerging topic of both discussion and action. Transparency, by itself, is not an independent action without an intended consequence. Trust transparency is the evolution of transparency from the “Golden Rule” to the “Golden Age” of transparency where honesty is managed to attain maximum value for both the giver and receiver of action or communication. The proactive lessons of trust transparency will provide a framework for growth both organizationally and personally.

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