Book Reviews

Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor

by Warren Bennis,Daniel Goleman and James O’Toole, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2008, 144 pp., $22.95 hardcover

The “command and control” culture of secrecy that once lived and thrived is now dead and should be buried. The notion that leaders in our schools or school systems can issue orders unilaterally and expect automatic obedience is not and never was a viable way to capitalize on the talents and skills of our teachers, students, parents and community members.

Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor


Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman and James O’Toole address this idea in their three connected essays in Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor. These distinguished authors apply their considerable knowledge of organizational life in their essays titled “Creating a Culture of Candor,” “Speaking Truth to Power” and “The New Transparency.”

Their book is timely. Schools are living in a world of digital technology where little can be kept secret. A “gotcha” mentality is a result of new media, social networking and blogging as a pastime.

The first essay illustrates internal transparency, external transparency and institutional opacity. It asks, how can we stop groupthink? How do we cultivate candor? In the second essay, we learn the lessons of Enron and the organization’s responsibilities when members are encouraged to “speak truth to power.” The third essay addresses the threats and opportunities that blogs, wikis and social networks present.

Bennis writes about the contrast between promises of transparency and the realities of governmental and institutional controls that belie those promises.

This is a short book and as such can be read quickly, but do not consider the book light reading. School leaders must see transparency as a way of life, not an option.

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz, chair, department of education leadership and counseling, College of St. Rose, Albany, N.Y.