Tell them the truth. If you aren’t able to relate the entire truth, due to confidentiality or some other real hindrance; tell them that you can’t divulge the entire situation. I have found that in these cases, if you have been telling the truth all along, the followship will understand and accept your offering and not press any further. But, if you have a record of not being consistently forthcoming; they will be very wary and this leads to a bad situation that is also hard to overcome.
Can you be fair?
Of course you can. It takes very little to do so and the returns are immeasurable, intangible maybe, but great nonetheless. It is almost always possible to be fair and as you might think, followers expect it. In fact they demand it. The feelings might not be evident on the surface, but its there, you can bet your job on it. When the circumstances limit your ability to be fair; explain it to the followship. In most cases they will understand; that is if you have been truthful all along. There’s that truth sneaking in again. Of course, where the outcome is personal, just an explanation will not work. Your best managerialese will come in real handy here.
How does consistency play a role in leadership?
Consistency is the long term report card of leadership. This wraps up the truth and fairness aspect of leadership into an umbrella trait. If you are consistently the truthful and fair player; followers will always know what to expect from you. This takes a lot of the gamesmanship outta the entire world of management. When you play the role consistently, you inspire others to do so also. Play the role less than consistent and your subordinates will do so also; an unacceptable situation one might add. Consistency can also rub off on peers and other managers, supervisors and leaders in the organization.