Should leaders treat others how they would like to be treated themselves? In the realm of leadership, there are plenty of leadership quotes and adages designed to provide guidance on how you should – and shouldn’t lead others. One of those adages is the belief that you should “treat others how you would like to be treated.” This adage, often referred to as ‘the Golden Rule’, suggests that leaders should interact with their team members based on their own preferences and values.

Honestly, to assume that all people want to be treated like we are treated is both naive and lazy thinking, and naïve and lazy leadership. The only guarantee you get with this idea is that your leadership works for you. In other words, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach fall short of effective leadership.

Great Leaders ‘Treat Others How THEY Want To be Treated’

Instead, leaders should prioritize listening, asking questions, and understanding the individual nature of their team members. To fulfil upon the needs of team members for modern times, perhaps the adage should become ‘treat your staff how THEY would like to be treated’.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should individualise every decision and every thought process in your business to cater to every possible need. But it does mean that you should look beyond your own preferences to create a positive company culture.

What are benefits to treating staff how they would like to be treated?

  • Acknowledging Diversity: One of the fundamental reasons leaders should move beyond the Golden Rule is the recognition of diversity in the workplace. People come from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, and what may be considered respectful or motivating to one person might not resonate with another. We all come with a wealth of experience, beliefs, motives, desires and ambitions – each unique to the individual. By listening and asking questions, leaders can gain insights into the unique perspectives and needs of their team members, creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued.
  • Tailored Communication: Effective communication is at the heart of leadership. While treating others as you want to be treated assumes that everyone prefers the same communication style, it often neglects the reality that individuals have different communication preferences. Some may prefer direct and concise interactions, while others might appreciate more detailed explanations or regular check-ins. Leaders who ask questions and learn about their team members can adapt their communication to match individual needs, ensuring that messages are well-received and understood. Yes, that does mean that you may have to brief your team in more than one way and more than one occasion! What is better? Communicating more than once (and more than one way) and having your words ‘stick’, or do it once and have it go over people’s heads?
  • Motivation and Recognition: People are motivated by different factors and respond to recognition in different ways. While some people thrive on public praise and acknowledgment, others may prefer private recognition or even constructive criticism. By taking the time to understand each team member’s motivational triggers and preferred methods of recognition, leaders can create a more motivating and empowering work environment. ow do you do this How do you do this in the real world? By simply asking questions. Do you prefer praise in public or private? A celebration or a pat on the back? It doesn’t need to be complicated – the effort and the small tailoring you make because of it makes the difference.
  • Building Trust and Rapport: Trust is the foundation of any strong team. Leaders who actively engage with their team members, ask questions, and demonstrate a genuine interest in their well-being can build stronger trust and rapport, and do it more quickly than a blanket approach to communication. When team members feel heard and understood, they are more likely to trust their leaders, collaborate effectively, and remain committed to your – and your businesses – goals.
  • The Opportunity to Learn and Grow: While ‘the Golden Rule’ offers a simple approach to communication and leadership, ‘treat others how you want to be treated’ falls short in today’s diverse work environment. Effective leaders recognize the importance of listening, asking questions, and understanding the individual nature of their team members. They also benefit from having other views shared and crucially, have the opportunity to CHANGE their views based on new information.

So, leaders, remember: It’s not just about treating others as you would like to be treated; it’s about treating others as THEY want to be treated. One word – and thought – from you can make all of the difference.

Looking to Transform Your Leaders and Treat others How They Want To Be Treated?

Developing Leaders offers a range of Executive Leadership Coaching, Leadership programs and Leadership and Team workshops that can provide you with the practical communication skills to treat others how THEY want to be treated.