JUNE 28, 2024

My Leadership Guiding Principle #2: Equity

Do you have your own leadership guiding principles? My big four are fairness, equity, transparency, and consistency. With them, I know how to be in any situation and I can sleep well at night because I know I’ve acted with integrity. Without them, it would be as if I were lost without a compass and asking people to follow me out of the forest.

In this post, I’ll talk about my guiding principle #2, equity, which actually ties all four standards together.

Equity is different from equality. While equality means giving everyone the same thing, equity means giving individuals access to what they need, the right resources and the same opportunity.

There’s a piece of equity that speaks to fairness and being just or doing what’s right.

There’s a piece of equity that speaks to transparency, so people come to know what to expect in how things are evaluated.

And there’s a piece of equity that speaks to being consistent in eliminating biases, so there’s no discrimination happening, so there’s no individual or group being chosen over another.

For me, equity also answers the question of how leaders are really treating the people that we serve and support.

When I think about equity, I’m also thinking about a level playing field. I’m thinking about equity as a way of eliminating disparities within an organization. This can show up in many ways. It could be pay, training, responsibilities, or giving someone a voice. Equity shows up in so many ways. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you have a job opening. You have a job description. You have a salary range. You’ve posted the job, read the resumes, interviewed the candidates, and you know who your best candidates are. Should they all receive the same salary?


The candidates have different skill sets, different experiences, and different years of experience doing the job. We also consider the pay of other employees in similar roles in the organization.

This is why we pay based on a candidate’s qualifications within a range.

Now, there are people out in the world trying to weaponize DEIB, and one of their biggest complaints is that when we focus on equity over equality, organizations eliminate merit-based advancement and promote mediocrity.

They say giving “extra” resources to people who have more needs is what’s unfair. They say that when organizations focus on social justice and eliminating disparities, it’s a distraction from the mission of the organization.

To this, I respond that disparities are the real distraction from productivity and team cohesion. Can you think of anything more powerful in an organization than teamwork? We need to create environments where every single employee can show up with what they need to do their best work.

A person can not be innovative, creative, or productive if they believe they are being treated less than another individual, a group, a class, a gender, a race, whatever that case may be. This is the distraction.

If you want to eliminate the real distraction, recognize that not all individuals start from the same place or face the same challenges. Recognize that to really ensure that everyone is productive and contributing and a team player, sometimes the support for different individuals may need to be different.

If we are getting real here, I’d say that the problem isn’t equity vs. equality. It’s that we still have a lot of bad actors not being held accountable for their destructive behaviors.

If you believe that focusing on equity perpetuates mediocrity, then make sure your people ensure that your policies, practices, and procedures are actually enforced. You’ll see productivity increase and turnover decrease.

If your organization struggles with equity issues, you might benefit from our Leadership Academy. Give us a call.