The 3 Golden Ratios of Good Leadership

by | Dec 11, 2020

Have you ever read or watched The DaVinci Code? Or geeked-out on the topic of ancient Greek mathematics? (I mean… who hasn’t, right?)

Golden Ratio ParthenonIf so, you’re probably tuned-into the idea of The Golden Ratio—the number (1.618 and a whole lot of digits after that) and mathematical concept that has been used for centuries in art, design, and architecture to make designs proportional in a way that is pleasing to the human eye.

Interestingly, it is also said to explain what makes a human face “beautiful.” That’s right: if you believe the mathematical purists, beauty is mathematically explainable. (My wife was clearly snoozing during this lesson of Geometry 301 given she decided to marry me—Dan “The Anti-Golden-Ratio-Face” Cremons).

Whether you believe the theory or not, it’s fascinating stuff.

And pondering this led me to wonder: In the same way that the Golden Ratio claims to explain so much of what we see in art, design, and nature… are there “Golden Ratios” that help to explain good leadership?

I give you three.


DC LinkedIn Post Banner Golden Ratios Reliability

Did you know: According to research by Elena Botelho and Kim Powell, CEOs who score high on reliability are a whopping 15x more likely to be high-performing… and have 2x the likelihood of getting hired.

Being a reliable leader comes down, in large part, to doing what you say you will do. Let’s not overcomplicate this, folks.

And the good news is, you don’t need to be Pythagorus to measure this one.

Think about the commitments you’ve made this week or month. How close to—or far away from—a Do/Say ratio of 1:1 would your people say you are? Your board? Your family?

Talk is cheap. But follow-through is the currency of reliability. And as evidenced by Botelho & Powell’s study—plus a bit of common sense—reliability matters.


DC LinkedIn Post Banner Golden Ratios Empowerment

Let’s pretend there was a little tracking device you wore around. In a given week, it counted the frequency with which you give advice & give orders (we’ll call the sum of these “tell”)… vs. the frequency with which you ask questions (we’ll call this “ask”).

What would this tell us? What is your ask/tell ratio?

It’s easy for leaders to over-index on telling our people what to do, or what we think—i.e. “directive leadership.” After all, starting in elementary school, most of us were raised in environments that rewarded us for having and giving the answer.

But the problem is: an ask/tell ratio is <1 (meaning, we tell more than we ask), can undermine our leadership, and undercut our team’s intelligence. When we tell more than we ask, there can be real consequences:

  • Our people can become dependent on us
  • We miss opportunities to empower our people to think for themselves
  • We risk making worse decisions (let’s not kid ourselves: our advice isn’t always as good as we think it is)


DC LinkedIn Post Banner Golden Ratios Motivation

Fun fact: top-performing teams give each other 5+ positive comments for every criticism… and there’s a direct linear relationship between team performance and the praise/criticism ratio.

We don’t need someone with a brain the size of Fibonacci’s to tell us that that praise is motivating.

But the reality is that many of us aren’t fully using its motivating power—and leaving lots of opportunity on the table.

Over 80% of leaders claim they frequently express appreciation & praise for their employees… but less than 20% of their employees report that their supervisors express appreciation & praise more than occasionally.

Translation: We think we’re praising our people a lot. But they beg to differ.

Want to amp-up your results? Start by amping-up your praise.

It’s just math, people 🙂

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