Why The Golden Rule Is Terrible Advice For Leaders

Why The Golden Rule Is Terrible Advice For Leaders

The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto yourself” is a very selfish ideology.

While it may help us navigate good and helpful behavior from damaging behavior, the recognition that in order to be good to others, we must first think of ourselves and our preferences, highlights a tragic aspect of our culture.

Thinking Poorly Of Our Abilities

This perspective of the golden rule comes from a belief that human beings can’t do good without something mandating the good behavior. It’s pretty much saying that we are completely unable to think outside of ourselves. Therefore, to get as close to ‘goodness’ as possible, someone has made a list of rules or laws to show people that, although you can’t be good, at least you can be nice.

This method of pseudo-altruism fails to take into account the moral, ethical, and cultural beliefs of others. The mantra to ‘do unto others as you would wish done unto you’ may aid in guiding routine behavior. For example, “I want others to respect my views” makes complete sense. However, it doesn’t provide guidance on how to respect another’s origins and deeper convictions.

For one person it may be beneficial or culturally acceptable to outwardly challenge another person’s negative behavior, while another person may find such action to be obtrusive and insulting.

I wonder… What would happen if we changed the Golden Rule to read, “do unto others and they would wish done unto themselves?”

Amending The Golden Rule

I’m not saying that you need to discard your values. Rather, this change is recognizing that it’s possible to adapt your behavior towards others in a way that indicates your conscious regard of their life standards.

In the same way that a bilingual individual talking with a monolingual individual would speak the common language between them, this change to the golden rule provides a foundation of altruism instead of egocentrism.

All of this is vitally important in an office setting. This is where we separate someone in a leadership position and a true leader.

True Leaders vs. Leadership Positions

True leaders recognize that, while opinion and conviction can be relative, goodness is universal. A leader acts toward the betterment of others, recognizing that without fulfilling an individual’s convictions any action is futile.

Those lacking leadership abilities often provide support or direction from an egocentric perspective. Thus, they quickly become frustrated as their efforts produce few, if any, positive results. 

True leaders recognize that it’s by acting out of the connection that binds us together that true change is possible. This is only accomplished by understanding each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and convictions, so as to speak directly to who they are.

These leaders act out of a belief that it’s not about forfeiting our convictions. They believe it’s about rallying others under the greater purpose that connects us all. It’s through the expansion of that sense of belonging, indiscriminately, that true forward movement and success are possible.

Final Thought

Encouragement is an individualized and empathetic practice. Without having the humility to set our perspectives aside and truly experience the world as others do, we cannot begin to provide the support and encouragement each human being deserves.

This amended golden rule allows for the dignity of each person to remain untarnished. It allows for the significance of each person to become amplified as it should be.


Have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions? Leave a note in the comments section below!


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