The Golden Rule is wrong

Quite often, I go to events where someone speaks about how they have become successful. Sometimes it is a keynote and others time it is a panel discussion format. One thing I have noticed is the way the majority of people answer a certain question. When they are asked to talk about how they are so successful or about what makes them a great leader, they often respond by saying they live and work by the Golden Rule.

For those who do not know the Golden Rule, it states that I must treat others the way I would like to be treated. I completely disagree with the Golden Rule! It is a myth. I believe it leads to poor communication, bad leadership, failed organizations, and even failed marriages.


You see, the Golden Rule is wrong. I should not treat others the way “I” want to be treated; I should treat them the way “THEY” need to be treated. Let me give some examples:


In an organization, should a manager really treat all of he or she’s team the way he or she wants to be treated? What if the manager prefers to be communicated with through email? What if the manager likes to be recognized with a pat on the butt? Does that mean the manager would recognize every employee that way? An effective manager is also an effective leader, and an effective leader knows their people. What motivates them? What is their communication style? Do they need to be told they are doing a good job? An effective leader treats others the way that person needs and wants to be treated.


Relationships are the same way. I am getting married in November. What if I treated my future wife the way I want to be treated? I am a guy. I don’t need to talk through things. I think things through. I don’t talk about my feelings, nor do I want to. But what if she does? What if she is more of a feelings person? Do I need to change? Does she? The answer is both yes and no. I should not completely change myself, nor should she. But I should work to treat her the way she needs to be treated. I should know that when there is a problem, she will need to talk about it. She should know that I need to think things through first. I think treating your partner the way you want to be treated is one of the reasons the divorce rate is so high.


So remember that the Golden Rule is wrong. Think about that this weekend. How can you treat your spouse the way he or she needs to be treated? How can you treat your employees the way they need to be treated? Together, I know we can change the meaning of the Golden Rule. It’s about time.

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