Honesty is the best policy: A leadership lesson from Warren Buffett

When we receive bad news, we tend to sweep it under the rug and pretend it isn’t happening. We either do this as a coping mechanism or to ensure that the news doesn’t get out. While it may be the easy thing to do, it is typically not the right thing to do. If our news affects others, we should be honest and transparent about it.

In the workplace, good leaders are transparent with any kind of news – good or bad. After reading an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, I noticed how billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, illustrates this leadership lesson very well. After Buffett received news that he was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer, he wrote a letter to the company shareholders about the situation. Why did he do it? Even though Buffett’s personal diagnosis is treatable and not life-threatening, he understands his responsibilities and obligations to his company shareholders.  Buffett knows that transparency is key and the best way to prevent rumors. It also proves that he is a trustworthy and respectable leader.

At Achievers, our company is committed to transparency, and the leadership team holds themselves accountable to this principle. For example, at our company-wide retreats, we host “Ask the Leaders” sessions where employees anonymously submit questions for the leadership team. At the event, all of the questions are read aloud and answered for the entire company regardless of how controversial or sensitive. Talk about transparency at its best! For employees, it enables us to trust our leaders and have open and honest communication. Additionally, it helps create loyalty and optimism among employees.

How does your company practice transparency? Would you have made that announcement if you were Warren Buffett?

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