Eliane Bacha and Sandra Walker have published a new article in the Journal of Business Ethics. The paper examines the relationship between perceptions of fairness and transformational leadership. The scholars studied 100 European companies. They found a relationship between certain types of fairness and the ability to inspire change. In this article in The Guardian, Polly Courtice, director of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainable Leadership (CPSL), explains why perceptions of fairness matter: "Fairness reflects an assumption about fundamental equality… about not putting your rank in front of other people's interests." Co-author of the article Sandra Walker notes, "What they [employees] care about is whether they are active in decision-making and how they are treated by their boss."
Fairness does not mean that everyone gets treated identically, of course. There is a significant difference between outcome fairness and procedural fairness. Leaders can't always make it such that all outcomes are equal or fair. However, they can make the process of decision-making more fair. They can invite input, demonstrate strong consideration of others' views, give others an opportunity to influence the final decision, and lead a transparent decision process. If they create procedural fairness, then they can build commitment and buy-in even if all parties do not agree with the final decision.