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Using the Golden Rule to be a Better Leader

In a recent C-Suite Success Radio interview, my guest Don Barden and I were discussing Servant Leadership. In that discussion the golden rule came up and Don told me that we have translated it incorrectly all these years. What he told me is a real game changer for becoming a better leader.

When we are young we learn that the golden rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don explained that the correct translation, and the one that you must use if you are to be a servant leader is to do unto others as they would want you to do unto them.

That means you treat them how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated. I thought that was brilliant, especially in the context of work because it lines up with one of my strong beliefs that people do best and are the most engaged when given the opportunity to do the work that means the most to them, and when empowered to do it in the way that they want to do it.

For example, I love public speaking and cherish the opportunities, which means if I did unto others as I want done onto me I would offer a speaking opportunity to someone else under the original understanding of the golden rule. But if they hate public speaking I am not actually giving them something they want, I am giving them something I want. I have to know what is important to them so I can give them what they want.

I have a friend who loves spreadsheets and would be less motivated if I asked her to do something creative like write an article, which is what I would want someone to ask me to do. If she asked me to do the spreadsheet work because that is what she likes I would be miserable pretty fast.

This translates into how we treat our friends, family, and, in the context of business, our co-workers and employees. True servant leadership – or in all actuality, true leadership – means finding out what the people on your team like the most, what role suits them best, and do everything you can to provide that to them. It’s not always possible for everyone to love every minute and every aspect of their job, but the more you can honor them, the more you can serve their needs, the better the results and engagement will be.

Your assignment, if you choose to take it, is to learn one new thing about each member of your team or your family that will allow you to serve them better. Start giving to them in the way they want rather than based on what you would want them to give to you.

If you do this from a place of true curiosity you will see amazing results very quickly. I would love to hear about your experiment, and you can connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at sharon@c-suiteresults.com.

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