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The Biggest Challenge CEOs Face

December 2, 2015, 7:30 PM UTC
Sandra Coan Photography

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What is the most important quality a leader should demonstrate?” is by Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group.

The single most important quality a leader should demonstrate in this day and age is authenticity. The world we live in has become increasingly transparent. More information than ever is available and accessible online and the way consumers and employees expect to interact with companies has drastically changed. Companies that embrace transparency can experience richer interactions with customers and employees, as well as increased profits. But in order for a company to be truly transparent, the CEO must be transparent; and for many leaders, that is challenging.

At Zillow Group, our entire business model and company culture is built around this concept of transparency. Openness is something I take great pride in as a CEO and is the genesis of my leadership style. The full formula to being a transparent leader is based on three qualities: empowerment, accessibility, and authenticity.

It all starts with aligning employees behind your mission as a company. There’s a lot of academic research about why it’s advantageous to have a mission-driven culture, particularly with millennials who are trying to connect with something beyond a job; they want a purpose, not just a paycheck. A mission-driven culture will allow you to attract better, more engaged employees. This is a big part of our company’s DNA. Everyone at Zillow Group is aligned behind one mission: “Power to the People: Build the world’s largest, most trusted and vibrant home-related marketplace.”

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It’s vital for transparent leaders to be accessible to employees, investors, and other stakeholders. For me, the single best way to create accessibility is through social media. Leaders need to embrace its power. For example, our leaders use social media exhaustively to engage with current and potential employees. In addition to being accessible through public channels like Twitter, it’s important to remain accessible internally. All employees have my cell number and text me questions frequently including during Q&A sessions at company-wide meetings. I don’t have a personal office, just a desk out in the open space with everyone else.

The final hallmark of transparent leadership is a dedication to the truth. Be honest, direct, and genuine. People might not like what you have to say all the time – but being direct and forthright pays off. Remember, you can be direct without being disrespectful.

And finally, just as leaders should be honest with their employees and the rest of the world, they must be honest with themselves about their own capabilities and limitations. If you can honestly assess your own strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be better able to use the strengths of your team members. Learn to rely on other star players in your organization to take the reins and handle some important tasks, whether that includes communicating with the public or managing day-to-day operations.