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The Platinum Rule for Leaders

Top-Down Leadership? Or Leadership that Meets Needs?
Top-Down Leadership? Or Leadership that Meets Needs?

The Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, can be a bad leadership move. Not everyone likes the things you like, sees things the way you see things, or approaches change the way you approach change. The Platinum Rule is far more effective, far more difficult for leaders to follow:

Treat others in the way they would like to be treated”

Set aside thoughts like, “People don’t always know what is good for them” or, if you’re in education, “Students would only opt for fun.”

Instead, ponder the findings of my colleagues Linda Kirby and Nancy Barger. Their book The Challenge of Change in Organizations flowed from their research involving over 2,000 people. Their summary:

  • People have different needs during change, depending on their personality type. This shouldn’t be a surprise since type describes differences in people’s informational needs and decision-making styles.
  • When those needs aren’t met, they tend to resist change. Why wouldn’t they, since leadership hasn’t helped them make sense of what they are being asked to do?
  • Leaders in general, fail to meet the needs of those whose styles are different from their own.

And of course, since the leaders provided everything they themselves needed, they label those for whom it wasn’t adequate or appropriate as resistant, or lazy, or dogs too old to learn new tricks, when in fact the fault lies within their own inability to adjust their styles to meet the needs of others.

Here’s a fast track to meeting those needs. Meet with your biggest resister. Say, “I need your input. What questions do you have about our new direction? I think you have some legitimate concerns that our current plans don’t account for.” Then listen. Often, resistance is a source of wisdom.

In one school, I grouped the teachers and administrators by the four major communication styles described by personality type. Only one person shared the principal’s style. When asked, “What questions do you have about our new initiative, the principal’s group had three questions. The group with the opposite style had twenty-two questions–key who-what-when-where-how needs. The principal said, “I simply don’t think that way naturally. I can’t anticipate your questions, yet I see how vital they are. PLEASE help me make it comfortable for you to ask them!”

How do you make sure you can follow the Platinum Rule as a leader?

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Jane Kise

Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hi Jane, I really appreciate this message and it’s so true. I often use the quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw – “Do NOT do unto others as you would have done unto you – they may have different tastes.”

    1. Thanks, Sue! I saw a list once of “Golden Rules” from various cultures. Maybe we could start one for Platinum Rules.

      Over at LinkedIn today, Roy Sheneman pointed out that leaders need to be sincere with this or it’ll backfire very quickly!!

  2. Jane, here is where going Platinum can definitely make one a winner in leadership. My clear ‘E’ is currently challenged by my mentor coach (whom I believe is very clear ‘I’/non-believer in MBTI). She wants me to ‘do it myself.’ What I want is to collaborate – I would like her to treat me the way I want to be treated vs. her way is the truth & light. Thanks for giving me another ‘Rule’ to consider.

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