The Golden Rule of Leadership

InTouch - Newsletter - #59

Welcome to the fifty-ninth edition of “In-Touch”. As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please let me know what you think by emailing me back.

Story of the Week: "The Golden Rule of Leadership"

The best and possibly the shortest definition of leadership that I have come across is not by any of the many inspiring leadership gurus. It is by Dee Hock, the founder and former CEO of VISA (he conceived the name of the global credit card system), who put it like this:

"PhD in Leadership, Short Course: Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don't do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always."

Hock's simple yet powerful definition of leadership reminds me of the verse in the Bible – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, commonly known as The Golden Rule. It is also a reminder that leadership is not just about achieving your goals but about building relationships with the people you lead. When you treat others the way you want to be treated, you create a culture of trust, respect and support.

The first part of Hock's “short course” involves reflecting on your own negative experiences from the past. These might include:

  • being micromanaged,
  • not being given credit for your work
  • being treated disrespectfully.

By remembering the effect of such negative experiences on yourself, you become more aware of how you do not want to treat others.

The second part of the “short course” involves reflecting on your own positive experiences from the past. This might include:

  • being given opportunities to learn and grow,
  • being recognized for your achievements
  • being treated with kindness and respect.

By remembering the effect of such positive experiences, you become more aware of how you want to treat others.

Tom Peters, the well-known American writer on business management practices, said that Dee Hock’s “"PhD in Leadership, Short Course"” is “about 99% of what you need to know” and he explained: “If it made you madder than hell when you were an unempowered 23-year-old person, then as a 33-year-old manager, don’t do it to somebody else!”

The beauty of Dee Hock’s “short course” and the Golden Rule is that both are incredibly simple yet profound. Making those few words your motto can literally change the way you do business and, by treating others as you want to be treated, you stand a much better chance of creating a culture of excellence and achievement. So, let’s all take time to reflect on our own behaviour as leaders and strive to become better every day.

Words of Wisdom

Maxwell on Leadership

“Leaders become great, not because of the power, but because of their ability to empower others.”

John C. Maxwell

A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

“Can you name one thing you abhor and one thing you love in a leader?”