Byron's Babbles

The Tricky Balance of Leading

balancing-act-elephant-700x340When I wrote the post Into the End Zone I said that Lessons #24 and #25 were ones that I believe are some of the toughest leadership norms to live up to. Tough because even if we are not crossing the line or playing favorites sometimes the perception is there. As we know perception truly is reality and therefore we must take action according to the advice of John Manning (2015) in The Disciplined Leader.

“This game of preferential treatment can build barriers and hostilities, create a mini-culture of exclusivity among your people, and most certainly damage your leadership credibility. Avoid this leadership sin at all costs by consistently treating everyone fairly, always striving to sustain a reputation for being a leader who doesn’t play favorites.” ~ John Manning

One thing I have found is there will always be some who will believe I am showing img_1747-1favorites. Partly because some that are not performing at top shelf level are going to make themselves the victim and believe/perceive it is because they are not the chosen one. Now, let me be clear, I believe I need to recognize those individuals and help coach them. However, I have found these individuals to be the toughest to coach.  These are individuals who tend to make themselves out as victims. Interestingly, when working with our Focused Leader Academy teachers they picked leaders being victims as one of the worst bad leadership traits. I blogged about this in Leaders Framing Themselves as Victims.

imagesAs I write this I am reminded of something profound that the greatest basketball coach and leader of all time, John Wooden said: “treating everyone the same is the surest way to show favoritism.” The bottom line is, we should not be striving to treat everyone we serve the same because, guess what, they are not! If we treat everyone the same way, we are for sure being biased because each individual is unique. The needs of different people require us to treat them differently. In order to not show blatant favoritism, we must take into consideration individual needs and do our best to treat everyone the right way. The right way is finding a way to differentiate how we empower team members, the coaching we provide, or the professional growth experience we make available. This means NOT treating everyone the same way. But then, won’t we appear to be playing favorites to some outside observers? Maybe so! This conundrum can drive us crazy. I believe if we just follow the rule of instead of giving everyone the same thing or treating them all the same; we give them what they need.

“Treating everyone the same is the surest way to show favoritism.” ~ John Wooden

Two ways I have found to keep me from falling into a trap of practicing favoritism are:

    1. Making sure I don’t pick/use/appoint the same people all the time for everything. This is an easy trap to into because our natural tendency is to have go to team members we use all the time. This allows us the opportunity to show you are not always picking a certain person for assignments. There may be some small risk in doing this, but if we accept the responsibility of knowing that we may need to provide some assistance or extra coaching, the team will become stronger and the bench gets deeper.
    2. I also believe that creating a culture where cross training of people should be  routine is paramount. In doing so, you develop bench strength, and you can demonstrate less tendencies toward favoritism.

Bottom line; don’t be afraid to practice John Wooden’s advice and treat everyone differently. It is really what we should be doing – differentiating. Differentiating is different than playing favorites. As human beings we can’t help but have favorite people, but, as leaders, we must operate with fairness and integrity. To do this we must not try to treat all individuals the same way in every instance. We must treat individuals in a way that helps him contribute to the fullest in the carrying out of the organization’s mission and helps him reach the personal/professional goals he has set for himself.

How is your balancing going?

Manning, J.M. (2015). The disciplined leader: keeping the focus on what really matters. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.



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