The Golden Rule does NOT work in Leadership

 In Leaders, Personal Insights

Have you ever heard the expression ‘if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail’?  I love to use this expression when it comes to management styles.  A hard-driving style can be very, very effective… if it is used appropriately and in a situation that calls for that style and approach.  Your “coaching” style (see Goleman, “Leadership that Gets Results”) can be very, very effective… if it is used appropriately and within a situation that calls for that style and approach.  One size does not fit all.  And, the best leaders know this and are able to adapt their style to the situation, the person, and the person-situation combination.  There are many instruments you can use to get a view of your style as a leader.  We use the DISC as one tool to identify a leadership style.  Then, we focus on how to adapt your style to increase your effectiveness as a leader.  Leaders who adapt their style:

  • identify individual styles
  • acknowledge differences
  • tailor their approach

Identify individual styles:  The most effective leaders have a high level of self-awareness.  You know your style.  You know your tendencies in specific situations.  You know the way you like to work, your strengths, and when your strengths become your weaknesses.  Great leaders also have a high level of awareness of others.  You know the styles and preferences of those around you and you pay attention to cues that help you determine how others are going to respond.  Use any model you choose, but know well your tendencies and how your style interacts with other styles.  It is how you maximize impact.

Acknowledge differences:  It is critical that you acknowledge differences, accepting the fact that there are many styles that are effective in different situations.  Only the most arrogant (and disillusioned) believe their style is best all the time.  The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”… this commonly held belief might be useful in social situations, but in leadership not so much!  You must know others around you and the biggest mistake you can make is to assume they all want to be rewarded, recognized, and motivated just like you do!  Be aware of your style and how it complements and conflicts with other styles.  Know it and plan for it.

Tailor their approach:  If you know your style, know the style of those around you, and can honestly acknowledge different styles you are in a great position to tailor your approach to maximize effectiveness.  It is important to know how others are motivated and tailor your approach to inspiring and motivating the desired behavior.  You may be a driver who only needs a carrot on the other side of the wall.  However, your direct report may need coaxing, motivation that includes the ‘why?’ or specs on how high the wall is before they are willing to scale the wall with you.  The more tools you have in your leadership toolkit, the more likely you are to be effective in motivating many.

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