The “New” Golden Rule & How It Affects Agile Leadership

We’ve all heard of the golden rule in some way, shape, or form: “Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you, or don’t do anything to someone that you wouldn’t want done to you.”

On the surface these practices sound reasonable.

In practice, however, adhering to them can lead to disengaged employees, lower productivity, and resentment. That’s why Agile leaders resist the urge to follow the golden rule at all costs, and why (as a result) they’re more effective.

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The Origins of The Golden Rule

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The concept of the Golden Rule can be traced back as far as the Code of Hammurabi. Its tenants exist in every major religion, and some business leaders view its practice as a prerequisite to employee engagement and customer loyalty.

Fred Reichend, the creator of the Net Promotor System, as an example, refers to the Golden Rule as “the profitable thing to do.”

The individuals who support this approach for interacting with people, however, fail to acknowledge a major flaw in the assumption upon which this philosophy is based.

This assumption frequently causes those who practice the “Golden Rule” to fail.

But what is this assumption?

That everyone thinks like you.

We know this is not true.

The assumption that everyone thinks like you is just not true. The famous "Golden Rule" of Leadership often leads to people thinking this way, hindering the growth of your team and company. Share on X

The Different Types of Individuals

Best selling author Robert Plank points out in his book “Why, What, How to, What if” that some individuals are listeners and problem solvers.

Others are organizers and perfectionists.

Some are leaders and deciders.

Leaders and deciders who treat and communicate with organizers and perfectionists “as they would like to be treated” are likely to experience a result that they’re not prepared for.

To illustrate a potential negative implication of following the Golden Rule let’s consider what might happen if a leader who is a natural introvert practices it against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis.

Leadership In Times of Crisis

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the natural tendencies of an introvert, psychologist Carl Jung makes the case that they tend to seek solitude.

They prefer to be alone and like to communicate in writing.

These individuals are probably in their glory now that so many people are working remotely, limiting face to face interactions and using e-mail as a primary means of communication.

There are different types of individuals in a business environment: some are organizers and perfectionists, others are leaders and deciders. Both should elevate each other by understanding how each would want to be treated and learning from their… Share on X

Implementing policies and practices and interacting with stakeholders based on this view of the world will work great when the individuals who you’re interacting with are also introverts.

But, how would this type of treatment work for the extrovert who craves face to face interaction and enjoys being around others?

Agile leaders, on the other hand, value individuals and interactions.

Therefore, they spend time getting to know their stakeholders and learning what motivates them. They then work to create an environment that celebrates this diversity. They treat others the way those individuals want to be treated, not the way “they” want to be treated.

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A “New” Golden Rule for Agile Leadership

Agile leadership requires the use of a “New” Golden Rule; one that states “Treat Others The Way They Want to be Treated.”

One way to accomplish this is to simply ask the question of your stakeholders by sending out a survey or speaking with individuals about their preferred way of communication.

This effort alone can provide the basis of a plan that allows you to treat individuals the way “they” want to be treated, not the way “you” want to be treated.

Originally published May 28 2020

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