Photo by Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash.

The foundation for every leader is his or her ethical standards.

That’s why one of the most helpful books I know of for any leader is Ethics 101: What Every Leader Needs To Know. I have recommended it countless times because it’s imperative for leaders to know and understand ethical standards.

In the book, John Maxwell proposes that success and ethical living can be accomplished through a powerful tool. Maybe you’ve heard of it… the Golden Rule!

Do to others as you would wish be done to you.

I know it probably sounds too simple, but it is a leadership game-changer.

Here are 5 reasons why you should adopt the Golden Rule.

  1. The Golden Rule is transcultural. It involves, encompasses and combines elements of many cultures.
  2. The Golden Rule is multi-situational. It works whether you’re managing a paper route or a Fortune 500 company.
  3. The Golden Rule is simple. It is ethics distilled to the point where almost every individual can understand it.
  4. The Golden Rule is a winning philosophy. A win for others results in a win for you when practice the Golden Rule.
  5. The Golden Rule is a compass. It gives you direction and provides guardrails for your life. John says, “I might dent my car but the Golden Rule can help keep me from going over the cliff.”

Ethical character will help leaders remain successful throughout their lifetime. Many CEOs and other leaders in powerful positions get seduced by attaining their power. As a result, focusing on the Golden Rule can be the most beneficial ethical guideline for any leader.

Think about it… How do you like to be treated?

  1. You want to be valued. 70% of those who leave their jobs do so because they don’t feel valued.
    • Application: Ask yourself a couple questions = Do you value people? Do you value people you don’t like?
  2. You want to be appreciated. Everyone wants to be recognized and appreciated for their potential and performance.
    • Application: How do you provide recognition to those who are deserving of it?
  3. You want to be trusted. Vulnerability builds trust!
    • Application: In what way can you be vulnerable in your home and your work place to build trust with team members?
  4. You want to be heard. David Agusburger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”
    • Application: In what ways are you providing team members with opportunities to feel they are being heard?
  5. You don’t want to be taken advantage of. No one wants to feel taken advantage of. It triggers something primal in all of us.
    • Application: Recall a time when you felt this way, this will help you to be empathetic with your team members.

Ted Koppel summarized it well, “There’s harmony and inner peace to be found in following a moral compass that points in the same direction regardless of fashion or trend.”

Can success and ethical living be lived out together in today’s world? Absolutely. In fact, you will find the most success when you lead this way.

If you want to maximize the long-term success of your organization, apply the Golden Rule to your leadership.


  1. Arounia Berry Mullen on October 27, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    When faced with one of the hardest things in your lifetime, you will understand how precious and easy following the Golden rule is. I’m a true lover of people but first I’m a lover of my savior Jesus Christ, when put through test after test illness and pain so bad sometimes you can’t understand why you but my heart is so very soft and loving is always been so easy I know that this is my journey and I’m stronger for it and so I’m saying this because I know I treat people better than Expected by them but not by who matters most to me and that’s my Father in heaven. So I’m including myself in this, we all must treat each other with love and kindness and love most of all for we never know when it will be our last chance to let people know that they matter.

    • Manoj on November 5, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      the above all rule is from the savior….

    • John Maxwell on November 6, 2018 at 11:34 am

      Thank you for your comment, Arounia!

  2. Rosetta on October 28, 2018 at 2:14 am

    Wow #4 wanting to be heard ,is close to being love. The words pulled on my heart This is definitely an area I need to work on!

  3. Debabrata on October 29, 2018 at 4:19 pm


  4. Bonnie Mary on October 29, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Do to others as I wish they would do to me. I like how the author says this can be applied to all cultures. yes and to all ages also. I have teenage children and it does take some time to try to remember how I felt at their age. How they would like to be treated, often requires wisdom and not just my ‘habit.’ Teenagers are often tired in the morning. Myself, enjoying a cheery greeting in the morning and someone being interested in me, needs to be balanced. How did I feel as a teenager. Did I want mum’s cheerful over questioning. So, to really be sure to try to place myself in another’s culture and context. If I have grown up in a culture where ‘looking someone in the eye’ is not considered polite, than other cultures may not understand and be pushing ‘…as I wish they would do unto me.’
    this takes some humility to realise, I may need to do a little research, pray for a lot of wisdom and not to be arrogant that I am so sure, I know how to treat others. If I don’t know, I can observe, research, ask….

    • John Maxwell on November 6, 2018 at 11:36 am

      You make a great point about the need for humility, Bonnie. When we are willing to consider the perspective of others, we go a long way towards living out the Golden Rule.

  5. Jamal Muhammad on October 30, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I like your ethics and morals.I am a man of God and I am a people’s person also.I get joy in encouraging others.

    • John Maxwell on November 6, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Thank you for your comment, Jamal! It’s awesome that you find joy in sharing joy with others.

  6. Robert W. Bernard on October 30, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    I recently took a new position as Head Custodian of a large elementary school. I was previously the night lead at another school in the same district. I have used this very principle to help guide me in my new journey. That part of this that really stands out to me but is often very difficult to understand is “Vulnerability builds trust!” but it’s something I know I need to work on both personally and professionally. Thanks again John.

    • Gina Mauceri on October 30, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      This is a challenge on every level as He works thru healing with me from a past filled with abuse n people taking from me everything my innocence my senses of what love is n isn’t who iam n not knowing a living God people pleasing is opposite of what you teach n iam having to learn where my value is and in whom it is in so I can change how I lead, I Love thru Him but having to believe He Loves me I go around believing it for others just not me.This is very helpful for what I am embarking on in Him healing me thank u.

      • John Maxwell on November 6, 2018 at 11:41 am

        Gina–you are, without question, loved by Him. Thank you for sharing so honestly and courageously about your journey.

    • John Maxwell on November 6, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Congratulations on the new position, Robert! All the best to you as you continue to lead well and grow.

  7. Maria Turney on October 30, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Sounds so simple, yet so deep. Thank you for reminding me of this golden rule. I should probably post this quote in my work area and at home, to make me pause for a bit, and think, especially when faced with a question or a challenging situation. Thank you, Dr. Maxwell!

    • John Maxwell on November 6, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Thank you for your comment, Maria!

  8. Sodiq on September 13, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    Oh oh oh. This is just too awesome. Thanks sir

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