Towards equitable leadership

Professor Pekka Mattila recently presented his observations on good leadership. One of the examples mentioned is striving for equity.   

text marjo-riitta diel image heli sorjonen photography english translation marko Saajanaho

Professor Pekka Mattila recently presented his observations on good leadership. One of the examples mentioned is striving for equity.   

Equity is stated as one of the most important factors appreciated by employees. It is the reason why people enjoy their time in the workplace, or why people decide to leave their workplaces. Inequity can anger, keep you awake in the small hours of the night, and even embitter or cause illness. Even onlookers find plenty to gossip about behind one’s back, trust is lost, and workplace morale suffers.  

Why does simply striving for equity suffice as a determining factor for good leadership or management?

You can ensure plenty of positive results by properly considering your decision-making processes and the principles of dividing benefits fairly. Corrective steps can and should be taken when problems are identified. It is more challenging to ensure employees find everyday management work, encounters, and communication fair and just.

Equity is difficult to get right. Much of it is defined in the eye of the beholder. The schedule is tight, and management find themselves in a crossfire of expectations and demands. What seems like inequity to one person may be meeting the unique needs of another person. A seemingly minor decision may have major significance. Some keep pondering the emphasis of the phrases used, others appear unflappable. 

Significant steps have been made towards equity if the basic ground rules of the workplace are in order, with the manager able to reflect on their own work and encounters with their subordinates. What kind of manager do I want to be? From what perspective do the people around me look at my leadership? How do my words and actions affect my subordinates and their work, and how may they be interpreted from different positions? How do I communicate difficult matters in particular?

Trust and equity work hand in hand. Employees are not always aware of the reasons and arguments behind decisions and actions, and sometimes eyebrows are raised as the words and deeds of management are questioned. But when the leader has proven they strive for equity, their employees can be confident that there are good intentions behind even the toughest decisions, actions, and words. Consciously striving for equity is enough.

Recommended articles

  • Careers outside the tenure track

    Universities want to offer clear career paths, including for those who choose something other than the tenure track path. The University of Vaasa, for example, offers two career paths and the Aalto University has two. However, sometimes you can only progress through an open application.