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.
Leadership Fairness vs. Neutrality: A Clearer View
- Great leaders are impartial not neutral. There is a significance difference between impartiality and neutrality. Impartiality is active. Neutrality is passive. 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 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 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 leadership fairness in leaders withholding their value and letting the teams struggle endlessly.
- 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.
Leadership 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. It shines in preventing empowerment from morphing into democracy.
In truth, great leaders don’t confuse neutrality and fairness. They know the difference between impartiality and neutrality. They aren’t conflicted over choosing between people or success.
They model and coach team members to respect and use diversity to kindle success. They inspire and engage people so they all can reach for the stars and yes, actually reach the stars!
It’s your turn …
- What else drives leaders into being neutral?
- Why do some leaders get stuck there and how does it impact those they lead?
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
Additional Actionable Leadership Posts:
Leadership: Engage Employees to Succeed at What? Integrity?
Leaders, Are You Leading With Honesty & Civility?
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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.
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