There is a common misperception about leadership that I believe every successful leader has to encounter, grapple with, and ultimately discard: “I am in charge, therefore I must control, I must rule.”

I have had the privilege of working with and learning from many gifted leaders, each with his or her own unique way of leading. But, from the high-energy super-motivator to the low-key nurturer/encourager, they all had something in common, and it had nothing to do with controlling or ruling.

What every successful leader learns is that all the best advice, all the studies, all the books about leadership agree on one fundamental rule, and it is hardly new: Treat others as you want to be treated.

The Golden Rule, as this ancient axiom is called, is another way of saying that what you value in a leader – respect, honesty, fairness, affirmation – should shape your way of leading.

Knowing and understanding what each member of the team brings to the table is a good beginning; affirming and fostering their talents and affinities is the leader’s most crucial job.

This is not an easy job, but ultimately it deepens the leader’s abilities, and opens the way for the kind of creativity that drives success. A leader approaches every new project as an opportunity to grow and as an opportunity for the team, too, to reach for fresh achievement.

Working alongside a team – not ruling over it – leads to authentic relationships characterized by respect and trust. As good leaders know, that is how everyone wants to be treated.