I once coached a rising leader who insisted on treating her employees exactly the same way. She couldn't understand why she had so many HR issues. On the face of it, you might be thinking, "well, come on, that's the best way to be an effective leader." I disagree.
Before we sip, let's take a quick trip to the dictionary. Dictionary.com defines “equal” as the same as; like or alike in quantity, degree, or value. The same website defines "equitable” as characterized by fairness; just and right; reasonable. Here's why I prefer equitable leadership.
- Equal leading is lazy leading. In my humble opinion, a leader who relies on equal versus equitable is taking the lazy way out. It takes a great deal of effort to make decisions and create policies that are just, right, and reasonable - which are the key differences between the two concepts. This is why vacation and sick time has given way to paid time off. Paid time off recognizes the myriad unique needs - well beyond being sick or going on vacation - that employees have with regard to needing time off.
- Everyone's skill set is different. "Hello, Mr. Goldfish, here's your tree. Good luck with that promotion." An equitable leader will take the time and effort to ensure employees are given fair opportunities for advancement; they are willing to make reasonable accommodations.
- Individual achievement is often not recognized. If you choose the easy approach of treating everyone equally you risk creating an environment where no one will feel the need to go above and beyond. This can impact morale, employee retention, and customer service.