Leadership, Fairness is Not Neutrality
by Kate Nasser |
Leaders who have moved passed the autocratic style of leadership and embrace employee engagement, collaboration, and empowerment sometimes face a new challenge — what to do when people disagree.
Both new and experienced leaders struggle with this. They feel compelled to be fair to all who disagree and they get trapped in defining what is fair. In their confusion, they mistakenly settle into neutrality with grave consequences.
In leadership, fairness is not neutrality.
The Clearer View of Fairness and Neutrality
- Great leaders don’t settle; they choose. There may be moments when leaders temporarily choose neutrality to understand what will come of divergent views and ponder the big picture. They may wait before weighing in yet they don’t hide in neutrality.
- Great leaders are impartial not neutral. Impartiality keeps bias at bay. Long term neutrality keeps success at bay. It abandons, isolates, demotivates, and disengages. Great leaders are engaged and personally engage others with care and inspiration.
- Great leaders navigate divergent views by keeping their eye on the business goal. Divergent views are the team’s raw materials of success. Great leaders use their experience, intuition, perspective, and private access to information to help craft those raw materials into a positive result. There is no fairness in leaders withholding their value and letting the teams struggle endlessly through neutrality.
- Great leaders mentor through the rich mix of views. As they see disagreements surface and then begin to swirl, they seize the opportunity to develop the team’s critical thinking skills. Through leaders’ excellent questions, team members learn how to assess the better pathway and reach the goal. In these moments, great leaders are facilitating current success and developing future leaders. Neutrality does not accomplish this.
- Great leaders practice humility not neutrality. The know-it-all leader is not a great leader. The neutral leader is not a great leader. The leader who practices humility becomes the model of how to disagree without being disagreeable. Neutrality doesn’t model this.
Humility respects all. It removes resistance and speeds conflict resolution. Conversely, neutrality often drags conflict out during which time it erupts again and again.
Humility speaks. It is not silent. It calmly sends a powerful message that neutrality never even whispers.
Fairness Is Found in Facilitating Greatness
New leaders, leading their former peers, bring greatness to the team by uniting all around the business goal. They are being fair to the whole team when they don’t let pleas for “fairness to your old buddies” paralyze them into neutrality.
Leaders who don’t like conflict bring greatness to the team when they teach their natural sense of collaboration rather than hiding in neutrality. Fairness lies in accountability to the team’s success.
Leaders with less occupational knowledge than those they lead bring greatness to the team when they use their impartial objectivity to help teams work through divergent views. They lose the team’s respect when their neutrality says “I’m not worthy”. Fairness to the team lies in overcoming self-doubt to ignite that team’s success, no matter what.
Leaders who want to build empowerment bring greatness to the team by not confusing empowerment with democracy. Empowerment tracks toward a common goal. Democracy tracks toward individual choice. Great leaders foster empowerment in teams (not democracy) to engage all to reach a shared success. Fairness to the team lives in resisting the temptation to be neutral and preventing empowerment from morphing into democracy.
In truth, great leaders don’t confuse neutrality for fairness. They aren’t conflicted over choosing between people or success. They model and coach diverse team members to use the raw materials of divergent views to kindle success. They inspire and engage people so all can both reach for the stars and yes, actually reach the stars.
I welcome your discussion on this topic:
- What else challenges and confuses leaders when dealing with divergent views?
- What are the effects of leaders’ confusion on the teams and the organization?
- What else drives leaders into neutrality?
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™
©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email email@example.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.