Treating others the way they want to be treated sounds so much less selfish than treating others the way we want to be treated. However, it is not easy.

Entire consulting practices and professional certificate programs exist to help us business folk try to decipher how someone else wants to be treated. Even with all this help, we do not always get it right.

To understand why, it may help to consider both the golden and platinum rules together.


Most of the leaders with whom I work like questions that allow them to answer definitively and with a binary choice. They like information presented a certain way and they expect their team to learn and understand this.

From the leader’s perspective, they want staff to learn how they want to be treated; in other words, the leaders expect staff to adhere to the platinum rule when interacting with them.

Similarly, when a leader is conveying information, they do it with their style, based on their personality and the content they are sharing. Operationally, most leaders do this without regard for the way the staff needs to hear it.

While some leadership styles, like servant-leaders, are more naturally in tune with what their teams need and want; it is more common than not that leaders expect staff to bend to their preferences.

This creates an atmosphere supportive to those team members who work or think similarly to the leader. Conversely, those who cannot easily operate within the leader’s style will be frustrated.

The critical question then becomes not whether the golden rule or platinum rule is applicable, but whether the leader’s style is consistent with the values of the organization and the culture he or she is trying to create.


If the leader’s style is direct, candid and based on trust in order to create a culture of transparency and loyalty, then it is reasonable for the leader to expect all staff to treat and want to be treated the same way. It is only after the vision and culture of the organization are translated into core concepts that drive behavior that all those within the organization can begin to consider the platinum rule.

In other words, if we all expect to communicate openly, and our actions support a culture of transparency (the golden rule), then we can dive in and apply the platinum rule to understand what those two things mean to each of us as unique team members.

For example, an introverted controller may enjoy clear, direct communications, but may need time to digest the information before providing a response. Whereas an extraverted social media manager may prefer anecdotes, interactive dialogue and quick decision-making.

Both employees should agree that honest communication is a cornerstone. The next step is to build on that foundation with an understanding of how honest communication flows differently through their filters.

The bottom line is that by translating the tenets of the organization’s culture into clear concepts we can create a baseline from which to develop a more nuanced and inclusive approach to how we act.