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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Knowing the Right Thing to Do 5 Spirit-of-the-Law Standard for Fairness While letter-of-the-law (legal) decisions are expedient, spirit-of- the-law (equitable) decisions require reflection time. Legal decisions call upon our rational processes (IQ); equitable decisions require us to use both rational and emotionally intelligent (EQ) or integrated processes (addressed later on in this chapter in the section on emotional intelli- gence in decision making). Discerning which type of decision-making process is more appropriate calls for a leader’s intellectual savvy and skillful ability to perceive the underlying emotional dynamics. When you make a spirit-of-the-law decision, you take into account the “totality of the individual’s circumstances” (Blackstone & Cooley, 2003). You look for the root cause of the problem in order to make a decision tailored to each individual situation. Most likely you will con- sider the following: • What is the person’s explanation? • Were there mitigating circumstances? Did anything “beyond the person’s control” cause the unwanted result? • What is the person’s overall track record? Has she been reliable and dependable? • Is this a “first offense” or part of a pattern of inappropriate behavior? • What effect will this decision have on the person and her family? • What will help the person change for the better? • Will this decision promote community harmony? Because of their history and origin in the Court of Equity, spirit-of- the-law decisions are also called “equitable” decisions. Equitable deci- sions require evaluating each person on a case-by-case basis as a unique individual. No “one-size-fits-all” template works. Leaders who make spirit-of-the-law decisions are seen as caring individuals. Parents and family members share their concerns with such a leader, knowing their viewpoints will be fully heard. Spirit-of- the-law decision makers are often loved and admired for their wisdom and compelling interpersonal skills. However, letter-of-the-law deci- sion makers may label equitable decision makers as “pushovers.” THINK ABOUT IT When has your spirit-of-the-law decision been right? When has another spirit- of-the-law decision backfired? What accounted for the difference? COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL