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The Leadership Golden Rule

“The Golden Rule” did not originate under Christianity.

Its earliest usage predates popular usage by more than a millennia with earliest historical records dating it to 2040–1650 BCE.

Pyramid of Giza

However, today is not a history lesson…it’s a leadership lesson.

Thou Shalt…

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Galatians 5:14

The Golden Rule seems like a nice sentiment until you realize two glaring problems with it.

Problem #1: We Scarcely Engage in Self-Love

If we are to “love thy neighbour as thyself” would it not be incumbent upon each of us to first love ourselves?

I just finished reading (listening to) The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown. In this book/series of lectures, she shares the idea that you can only love others, as much as you love yourself. That is, your capacity for love is capped by how much you are willing to love yourself. This is in the context of an entire book addressing the many ways in which we avoid vulnerability, armor up to appear free from weakness, pursue perfectionism, and numb ourselves to avoid dealing with shame.

We are a culture rooted in fear and mindset of scarcity, always working more and working harder out of fear of getting left behind, losing everything, or worse, being perceived as lazy or weak.

So, the first problem with the Golden Rule is that the conversation currently assumes that we love ourselves enough to treat others properly. How often do you celebrate your own accomplishments, get enough sleep/rest, take care of your body through proper eating and exercise, or stop once in a while to acknowledge that you are enough just as you are?

Perhaps many of us aren’t ready for that Golden Rule just yet.

Problem #2: The Golden Rule is Self-Centered

Let’s be real. When you are interacting with someone, you don’t care if they are treating you the way they want to be treated. You care about how they are treating you. There is no advanced calculus here. I want to be treated the way I want to be treated, not the way you wish you were treated. I’m not you.

Therefore, as a leader, the Golden Rule is not the best framework to operate under.

A better option would be to treat people as they wish to be treated. Don’t you think?

The Leadership Golden Rule

If you want to be a great leader, then I suggest the following change to the Golden Rule.

“Thou shalt genuinely love thyself so that you are whole enough to love those you lead, and treat them as they wish to be treated.”

Jeff Gibbard’s leadership golden rule

That should help you be a better leader, with more confidence and self-acceptance, who relates to people more effectively.

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