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Do unto others

BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- Not long ago a young Airman asked for my thoughts on leadership.

I figured he wasn't expecting a detailed explanation on what style or combinations of styles I use and why I use them. So, I searched for a concise answer to deliver maximum impact with the fewest words.

I said, "Golden Rule." He gave me an inquiring look my cue to continue.

"My parents taught me to do unto others as you would have them do unto you and they called it the Golden Rule," I said. "I try to treat others the way I want to be treated even if they don't reciprocate. I've found it's a good basis for establishing and maintaining a relationship of mutual respect, which is crucial to successful leadership."

"Uhh, thanks, Chief. Have a nice day," he said right before walking away.

Most of us have read volumes of literature and attended seminars on leadership. We've learned styles, traits, characteristics and qualities (the list goes on and on) of successful leaders. We've looked at what comprises the tool kit of a successful leader. We've studied comparison and contrast on the polar opposites (directive and non-directive leadership styles) and studied scenarios on applying different combinations of these styles to find out what works best.

There are as many variations of leadership styles as colors in the rainbow. And there is no one style or combination of styles that fits every circumstance because successful leadership is situational. But the reason we spend so much time learning situational leadership concepts is so we can effectively deal with people whether they are our superiors, peers or subordinates.

We all know what it feels like to be treated well or not to be treated well. It's easy to treat someone well when they're treating you well, but when you're treated poorly, it can be very difficult to treat someone well. But it can be done and it's usually your choice. Sometimes the choice is easy; sometimes it's not.

When you choose to treat people poorly or respond poorly to an order you encourage a bad attitude; which yields an unhealthy working environment, which yields low productivity and discourages mission accomplishment. When you choose to treat people the way you want to be treated, whether or not it's reciprocal, you encourage a good attitude, which yields a healthy work environment, which yields better productivity and encourages a high level of mission accomplishment.

The way you deliver a message or task and the way you solicit information is the key to success of the response. The way you respond to people, the way you conduct yourself, the way you administer your authority and the way you implement decisions are all choices.

The way you choose to treat others will likely be the way they choose to treat you. The Golden Rule: It's a concept, philosophy and value that I try to live by every day. It doesn't matter what you call it, what matters is that you apply the concept. I encourage you to try it.