Leading with Fairness

There are many things that leaders, at best, must do. They must communicate well. They must help chart a course toward worthy goals with their vision and set great examples with their work.  Leaders must also be fair to all members of the group. But what does being “fair” actually mean and look like? 

One definition of the word “fair” is “conforming with the established rules.”  That sounds good, but it is a more of an “external” definition, dealing with one’s actions. Also, it avoids analysis of the rules or their application. Here is another definition of “fair” that helps us more: “marked by impartiality and honesty; free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.”  This is a more “internal definition” that gets at the motivation for one’s actions. When we carefully examine our motivations for acting (and leading), we have a better opportunity to go toward the right goals, for the right reasons. With this in mind, here are some related tips.

Embrace Commonality of Group Members.

Individuals in a group generally have something in common that positions them similarly in the group setting. In order for effective leadership to take place, leaders must ensure that the commonalities that create the group are initially recognized and embraced. Those commonalities can, at best, build foundations of trust based on the belief that members are “all in the same boat.” 

Evaluate both the Goals and the Rules for Fairness.

Leaders must examine the goals of the group and the rules that govern the group. The must evaluate, and re-evaluate, the nature and source of the rules, as well as how much circumstances have changed since the rules first took effect. Measured with this metric, we should have a good idea of whether the group is on the right course. 

Communicate, and Collaborate, About the Rules and Objectives of the Group.

Key decisions about the identity of the group should be as collaborative as possible. Viewed through the lens of fairness, Leaders must communicate with the group to help to provide and confirm clarity on the vision and goals of the organization. That communication should welcome the contributions of other group members (including how group members view fairness). This communication allows us gain perspective that makes the group stronger. At best it will facilitate buy-in that motivates team members to give their all, and to see clearly in difficult moments. 

To be the best leaders we can be, leaders should seek to carry out the “internal” definition of fairness and encourage the contributions of other team members to measure and improve their own fairness. Constant communication about the goals of the group, and the related rules, and measuring progress with them in mind, ensures the proper focus.