The Golden Rule of Management

If you Google the phrase “Management vs. Leadership,” you will find dozens of authors making distinctions between the two. Even more impressive are the YouTube videos that speak to this distinction. Boiling it down to its essence, we will define management as the process of getting things done, we would hope, in an efficient manner. Leadership, on the other hand, is the process of getting things done through people. Here is the challenge:  people do not always cooperate. The secret of leadership is to gain the trust and commitment of followers—essentially, to get them to cooperate.

Both management and leadership are essential to a successful organization. So, we decided to merge the two into what we call “The Golden Rule of Management,” a rule by which people are treated with faith, trust, and respect.

Let’s be more specific. In a work setting, faith is believing in your people—believing that they want their organization to be successful. Trust is the willingness to obtain worker input and giving workers the autonomy to do their jobs without interference or micromanaging. Respect is treating workers with dignity and valuing them as people and employees. Together, we believe these represent the way most of us want to be treated—thus, the Golden Rule of Management.

At GM’s Tonawanda Engine Plant, Don Rust and his management team adopted the Golden Rule of Management. There was zero tolerance for managers who failed to embrace the core values that are the basis of this management style. It is this style of management that helped to create a culture that energized the workforce. For example, on any given day, it was not unusual to experience 20 percent more engines produced than the daily average from before the Golden Rule of Management was adopted. This increase in output was done within budget and without overtime or any special push from management. When the plant set a world record of 8,832 engines produced in one day, it was done with the full cooperation of workers, their union, and management working together. Upon reporting this production record to top executives at GM headquarters in Detroit, the first concern they expressed was about the effect on budgets and whether this record was achieved at the expense of quality. In fact, this record-setting day produced the engines at lower cost and at 100-percent quality. These top executives were focused on managing resources in an efficient manner. They had no idea what could be accomplished when leadership is used to treat workers with the faith, trust, and respect that are the essence of the Golden Rule of Management.