Of all the leadership qualities, fairness is perhaps one of the hardest to practice on a consistent basis. Fairness is often a question of perception, so while we may do our best to practice fairness, others may not always view us as fair. Brit Hume once said, “Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised”. Webster says that the definition of fairness is the ability of having freedom from bias and injustice.
So what are the rules of engagement when treating others with fairness and respect? To begin with you must avoid creating favorites. Do you seem to favor some people over others? This is often experienced as having one set of rules for one person and a different set of rules for another. Shine the light on someone else. Once in a while, choose a well-deserving subordinate and give them recognition that they may deserve.
Give credit generously. Every person who does the work wants to have their stamp on it, just as every artist likes to sign his painting. For example, while it is not always feasible to recognize everyone who toils in the background to create a report for someone else, strive to unearth the efforts of everyone who contributed. Nothing cements a relationship more than giving someone who is invisible credit for their intellectual and emotional labor in a project. Set the example yourself and ask the same of your direct reports. This is the most elevating, and often the least practiced form of fairness.
Developing the sensitivity to truly understanding that fairness is an important principle in being a leader is very important. It makes us more attuned to people’s emotions in the work place. We commonly hear the expression: “Life isn’t fair; get used to it,” but this doesn’t mean we have to accept it. If you create condition where your constituencies can depend on the fairness of your organization, you will create a great workplace. As a leader, being fair to everyone is very essential if you want to be a respected leader.