The Power of Fair Leader Relationships

fairness in leader relationships is key
Does your workplace have fair leader relationships? Or are some people on the "in-group" while others are not? Learn how to tell here!

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We have talked before about the importance of leader relationships on our podcast. In this post, we discuss how you can do a better job of making sure your workplace has fair leader relationships. Plus, we will help you to better understand whether or not your own relationships with others at work are fair.

There are four main areas in which leaders and followers judge one another. These determine whether or not leaders and followers have a strong bond. Fair leader relationships may be compromised when leaders only have strong bonds with a small number of followers. Read more to find out what those areas are – and how you might expand your teams’ horizons!

Fair Leader Relationships and Emotion

First, relationships between leaders and followers are stronger when there is an emotional connection. This is true of all relationships. When people like each other, they tend to gravitate toward one another. In turn, they are likely to spend more time together and get to know each other more deeply. But, this also means they are more isolated from others. If a leader really likes certain followers, they may ignore other team members who are also talented and skilled.

Ask yourself the following questions. Are there people on your team who leaders seem to like better than others? Do coworkers hang out as friends outside of work, without other team members? Is there a sense that certain employees laugh or have fun together, while others are left out of the inner circle? If so, your team might lack fair leader relationships on an emotional level.

Fair leader relationships involve ensuring that there aren't "ingroups" and "outgroups".
Fair leader relationships involve ensuring that there aren’t “ingroups” and “outgroups”.

Fair Leader Relationships, Respect, and Loyalty

The next two areas that leaders and followers may bond over are conceptually related. The first is respect. When leaders and followers respect one another, they admire each others’ talents and skills. The answers to the following questions will tell you if there are unfair leader and follower relationships on your team. Do leaders discuss how impressed they are with some followers, and ignore others’ contributions? Are some relationships between leaders and followers marked by a mutual respect and appreciation for each others’ talents, but not others? Is it possible that some followers’ talents are being overlooked, or not given as much of a chance to shine? If yes, your team may have unfair levels of respect in relationships.

The second area is loyalty. When people respect one another, they are usually quick to defend each other against criticism. When leaders and followers have loyal relationships, they protect each other in the face of negativity from others. Do leaders stand up for some team members, but not others, in the face of criticism? Have you heard leaders let negative comments about others slide in some cases, but not in others? If so, your team may lack fair leader relationships when it comes to loyalty.

Does everyone have an equal chance at being respected in your workplace?
Does everyone have an equal chance to be respected in your workplace?

Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Finally, and importantly, strong leader-follower relationships are marked by a willingness to give more to one another. This means that leaders and followers will do favors for or help each other. They will also provide resources or opportunities for each other. While this can be good for those in stronger relationships, those with weaker ties may get less from the leader than they deserve.

Do certain leaders and followers go out of their way to help each other achieve their goals? Are some team members getting more time and resources from their leader, and vice versa? Does it ever feel like talented people are being left behind, and the same people are getting opportunities over and over again? If so, your team may lack fair leader relationships when it comes to team members’ contributions to one another.


Hopefully this helped you to understand whether or not fair leader relationships are the norm in your team. If you found that relationships are unfair, you may want to encourage leaders (or yourself) to expand their horizons. Leaders might start to go to lunch with people they don’t usually spend time with. Or they might engage in one-on-one meetings where they can learn more about the talents and skills of members of the “outgroup”. Finally, they might recalibrate how they distribute rewards and resources. Leaders can get into ruts where they go to the same people, all the time, for everything. Pointing out their patterns may help them to exhibit more fair leader relationships!

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