Coaching Article – Two Ways Leaders Can Become Golden

The Golden Rule appears in seven major religions in the world as well as most societal cultures. Most of us know it from our religious training, but it’s also quite intuitive if you care at all about other people. It seems like an obvious and simple rule to guard our character, but it’s also quite clear that it’s not easy.

Let’s explore together how to make it work in our daily lives. But first, watch this 5-minute coaching clip on the problem and solution of becoming Golden –

(Video not playing? Watch it here.)

Identifying the Selfish Problem

We’re all born selfish human beings with pride and even the capacity for evil. I have some friends who say it’s not inherited; they say we have free will and get to make our own choices. Both perspectives have value, but I say we are born with this bent because most of us can recall fighting with a sibling over ownership or taking something that was not ours (stealing) at an early age. Regardless of how you view it, it’s clear that we humans can get off course of good character very quickly.

In my book Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability, I spent the entire first chapter giving example after example of gross character violations. In my research, I came up with examples at every level of society throughout recorded history:

  • shepherds to scribes
  • preachers to politicians
  • students to superintendents
  • teachers to tycoons
  • journalists to judges
  • bureaucrats to bishops

The conclusion is that evil is hunting all of us, regardless of our training and station in life. We’re all driven by pride or the need for power, position, property, comfort, or pleasure.

“Instead of the Golden Rule, it seems distorted to be ‘whoever has the gold makes the rules.’ This humorous shift of words is all too true for some leaders.” [Tweet This]

The Beloved David and His Fall

Consider the example of the person whose name is the sixth most popular name in America—David. In the biblical book of 2 Samuel, the beloved warrior, the legendary King David—”a man after God’s own heart”, committed adultery with a soldier’s wife and then had him killed to make the problem go away.

The life of David should be a wakeup call. We cannot assume that we’re above such behavior, especially at a time in our nation’s history when the idea of “I must win at all costs because the end justifies the means” seems to be surging. Perhaps there’s never been a more critical time to think twice and suit up in our armor for the battle that it takes to guard our character.

Choosing the Golden Solution

Let the Golden Rule be part of your armor in this daily battle. When faced honestly, this 24/7 challenge can seem scary and difficult. We must clarify our values and ethical standards, and then engage the challenges we face with a commitment to lean into the pain of our doubts and fears to do the right thing (the Honor Code may help). To make it easier to apply your commitments, try using this simple but laser-focused phrase –

“The Golden Rule says ‘Do to others what you want them to do to you.’ This simple statement requires commitment, intentionality, and effort.” [Tweet This]

Let’s look at two ways to re-commit to the Golden Rule –

1. Reflect. Pause to consider the tsunami of character-related problems in our culture, and you’ll see that most of the examples were good people who got off course. The words of former White House Counsel Jeb Magruder, convicted in the Watergate scandal, are a good reminder. “Somewhere between my ambition and my ideals, I lost my ethical compass. I found myself on a path that had not been intended for me by my parents or my principles or by my own ethical instincts.” Clearly, had he followed the Golden Rule, he would not have deviated from the course that he had planned. It can happen to any of us.

2. Respond. Given the realities of our humanness, how can we respond to live by the Golden Rule?

  • Acknowledge that we are vulnerable. Having some doubt in a situation can be a powerful lever.
  • Clarify our commitments. Knowing it can happen, we can become more intentional about regularly clarifying our boundaries. Who are you, and what do you stand for?  What are your character and values commitments?
  • Engage with the Courage Challenge Commitment that says, “Lean into the pain of your doubts and fears to do what you know is right, even when it does not feel safe or natural.” Without courage, it will never happen. Our doubts and fears (and related false pride) will take us out.
  • Don’t fight this battle alone. Stay connected to wise people who care about you and who can help you stay on course.

You and I can’t change everyone in our culture. But we can set the example that will influence others to see the true gold in the Golden Rule. Let’s focus on ourselves and make sure we measure up.

LE [Tweet This Article]

Here are a couple more resources to help you gain more insight:

Dr. Richard E. Boyatzis

In this video, Dr. Boyatzis shares insights from neuroscience that help us better understand the challenge of leadership balance. He explains the switch (what we often call behavioral adaptation) needed to use both the “task positive” and the “social” networks in the brain. These networks allow us to be able to execute tasks, solve problems and get results and then quickly shift to an openness to others that allows us to listen, show empathy and connect with others.

The Complete Leadership Behavior Package – Save 20%

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  1. The Leadership Behavior DNA book – Along with training the reader on the most important tenants of leadership, it also goes deep into the explaining the 8 Factors and 16 Traits that form the bedrock for helping manage the differences in yourself and others.
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