Leaders Must Understand Fairness


In order for leaders to be effective in their practice, they often need to understand and master a wide variety of ideas.Leaders must understand fairness, when to be fair and when to be unfair. When a leader takes a particular side on some idea, this can either garner support or create opposition from the group.

The issue is that it is not always immediately obvious which rule or idea to follow and what side to take. For example, let’s consider the idea of fairness. To an inexperienced leader, perhaps it may sound to them that a good general rule of thumb would be to be fair at all times. In reality, this idea can jeopardize someone’s leadership position. In one instance, being fair can get support from the group, but in other instances, being unfair will get support. An example of this will be provided shortly, but let’s explore the idea of fairness first.

Generally, a leader that is fair to the group is supported in the leadership position. Groups usually have the expectation that their chosen leader make fair decisions. An example of fair decision-making would be treating all members of the group equally. Another example of fair decision-making would be a leader himself or herself equally to all members of the group. If the leader were to provide any sort of preferential treatment and break the idea of an equal treatment, then their leadership practice would be jeopardized. But earlier, it was mentioned that both fairness and unfairness could gather support from the group. To outline this, an example will now be provided.

Imagine if a leader were to decide that, due to a medical device shortage, two patients would share time on a critical live saving piece of medical equipment. In this instance, the leader would gain support. However, what if the two patients were a recent immigrant and perhaps a citizen were to share the same medical device. In this instance, the leader would receive less support, and perhaps may not receive support. What if the leader then adjusted the strategy, and provided the citizen more time on the critical medical device than the outsider, then the leader may receive support again. This example goes to show that being judged on fairness or unfairness comes down to what group is being targeted. In this example, the leader maintained support by being fair to a member of the group, but unfair to an outsider. The leader must know when to be unfair.


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