Two Important Leadership Traits: Fairness and Transparency

If you want to become a more effective leader, focusing on fairness would be a good place to start. If you think that such a focus is easier said than done, you are correct. But if you think that it isn’t worth the effort to develop and improve, then you should probably seek a career in politics where cronyism nearly always trumps fairness.

Fairness means dealing with others in a consistent, impartial, objective manner. Leaders who have a strong sense of fairness in their dealings with employees tend to bring out the best in terms of initiative, innovation, and productivity. Workers who feel that their workplace is a place of consistently fair treatment by the organization’s leadership will tend to offer their loyalty and dedication in return. The sense that there is a level playing field for everyone is indeed powerful and reinforcing.

Good leaders are open and honest about the reasons behind their decisions. They base those decisions on facts, and not incomplete evidence. They listen carefully, they give employees a voice, and they communicate clearly so that employees can understand the context in which the decisions are made. They also strongly hold to the concept of transparency in the manner in which they go about their business.

Fairness is very often a question of perception. We may try diligently to practice fairness, but others may view events through their own lenses. The idea of fairness as seen by all employees thus has the potential to become vague and misconstrued. As a result, fairness may well be the most challenging trait to practice on a consistent basis.

Here are some thoughts for consideration with regard to leadership fairness:

• Avoid playing favorites. Nothing can undermine the perception of a leader’s fairness than by concentrating attention on a small, select group. The leader’s attention should be distributed across a wider range of people where everyone is seen as playing by the same rules.

• Involve key stakeholders in major process changes. Whether the process change involves the movement of materials on a manufacturing floor or the specifics of order entry, seek the input of those whose jobs will be affected and whose knowledge can be of benefit.

• Involve key stakeholders in the hiring process. This not only increases the probability of a good hire, but it creates a transparency in the process that can build cohesion and trust.

• Give credit liberally. Spreading the credit for accomplishments to those who might otherwise go unrecognized is fairness in its truest (and perhaps most neglected) sense.

A good leader needs to make decisions that are fair and objective, apart from the way the leader may feel personally about the situation. Fairness deals in facts and not personal opinions. Fairness is a description a leader should strive for and covet.

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