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What does it mean to be a fair leader?

How to maintain company culture during a pandemic: an example

What is most personal to you leadership development goal for 2021? There are three challenges the world leader had to face last year and we have yet to overcome them (whatever that means!):

  • The pandemic required security protocols and processes, which led to major modifications to remote and virtual work.
  • We have stretched the balance between work and life to new frontiers, breaking down former boundaries, creating new transparency and vulnerability between leaders and teams (the boat “leave your privacy behind the door” not just sailed away but sank).
  • “Jedi” (justice, justice, diversity and inclusion) efforts have increased in visibility and priority, and organizations recognize, approach, and process them differently and to varying degrees around the world.

No matter where you sit in the organization as a person with impactit is important to give (make) regular time for self-reflection to better know who you are and what you will do about these three issues. To be successful and effective, every leader on the planet now needs to be diligent and attentive, considering the best way to move forward with his team, with flexible growth thinking and using the healthiest strategies.

The bottom line: in the next decade, leaders need to be fair.

Are you a fair leader?

How fair are you? How impartial or honest are you in dealing with colleagues, immediate subordinates, leaders of the entire organization, customers and clients?

What is the condition and quality of your work? Consider both what you do and what is less tangible (but just as important, if not more) as you do it. Are your efforts fair – as in “sufficient” – when compared to expectations, standards and desired results?

You “play fair” – as in compliance with established rules of business ethics and standards set by your organization and the countries where you do business? Do you model and promote better behavior for your team, colleagues and organization? Are you part of the solution when your organization reviews or even rewrites many of the social norms and rights that people working in and with it can count on?

Is there justice – as in “beauty” (e.g., “fair virgin”) – in your humanity? You have deliberately developed not only intelligence and knowledge (IQ), but emotional intelligence (EQ or EI)? Do you show kindness that makes you “beautiful” in work and communication when you drive?

Justice is access

These important questions for self-reflection jumped off the page when I looked at “fair”. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. After much deliberation, the guiding principle for the development of personal leadership in 2021 (perhaps for the next decade!):

«Fair ”does not mean equal treatment for all; it means that everyone I influence has access to what he needs.

Let me give a personal example and an example from work:

We have two children: a boy and a girl. When it came to parenthood, we made sure it was the same: we carefully put under their pillows the same amount of money for lost teeth. We carefully attended every game and concert – followed by ice cream. Both loaded the dishwasher after family dinners the same number of times a week and at the same age learned to drive the machine. Both learned to clean the bathroom, wash clothes and help with gardening (and were held accountable for it).

But when it came to helping with schoolwork, one had to take a test the night before the tests, and the other had better look at the notes on their own. When it came to the curfew, one had to choose a clock based on demonstrated reliability, while the other needed strict recommendations based on trust failures. When heartbreaks occurred, one needed many hugs and conversations to find solace and begin healing, while the other wanted fewer hugs and more quiet support through our presence.

Now to the workplace: some employees need hands-on training and a lot of time from their supervisor, coach and teammates; others learn best when given guidance or instruction. Some employees demonstrate competence in a task more effectively by showing someone how to perform it; others prefer to take a test or assessment after reading the assigned materials.

One of the employees can have an outgoing, bright character, wear their emotions up their sleeve and share transparently and honestly when things look wrong. This person’s manager may need to have one-on-one conversations and work with them on an ongoing basis self-awareness and emotional expression so that they don’t get caught up in meetings and don’t get along (or talk!) through the opinions of others.

Another employee may be a technical expert focused on details, a person who knows the intricacies and outputs of multiple machines, software or processes. Their leader knows that their knowledge and experience are important to the team, but because they are more closed and modest, their leader should interest them with thoughtful questions in a group setting, usually by the end of a brainstorming or problem-solving discussion. These team conversations often go hand in hand with one-on-one conversations that their supervisor has with them in advance, because these conversations are how a manager can help them contribute to the project.

Dr. Paul Hersey known for saying, “The worst thing you can do is treat everyone equally.” I agree. To be fair to everyone, we must consider each person, as well as the knowledge, experience, skills, confidence, commitment and motivation that he or she brings to each task, activity or behavior. For successful leaders, being fair means setting priorities and ensuring that everyone has access to what they need.

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