To say that Marshall Goldsmith knows a thing or two about leadership is understating on a truly epic scale.
Rated #1 Leadership Thinker and one of the Top Ten Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World. Top-ranked Executive Coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony, and twice a New York Times best-seller.
Appearing in Australia this year, he gave a series of media interviews – all highly compelling and motivating. There was no shortage of insights for all types of heads - for anyone keen to learn how the world’s top CEOs achieve positive change and continue to achieve great things for themselves and their brands.
Here are just three of his top insights – because even the briefest moment of understanding can change things for you for good. And curiously, that’s one of his points.
DON’T BECOME A HAMSTER ON A WHEEL
Goldsmith shares the advice given to him very early in his career by Dr. Paul Hersey, co-creator of the highly influential management model Situational Leadership™. “One day he told me that I was very good at what I did, selling days and speaking, but that I was making too much money and complacent in my success,” Goldsmith says.
“He told me that I was just a hamster on a wheel not going anywhere, that I would probably make lots of money and have a good life, but if I continued doing what I was doing I wouldn’t become the person I could be.”
Goldsmith was quite comfortable coasting on his success. People were happy and business was lucrative. So he ignored Hersey’s advice. Fast forward twelve years, and he finally got it. To go from good to great, you can’t rest on your laurels, even if you are dancing with a cash cow. You have to be truly engaged with the things that get you most excited. Ultimately, Goldsmith realised this was original thinking, writing, creating and research.
His gold nugget was “I would never have known that coasting on our achievements can be one of the biggest flaws of very successful people!”
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU
The trickiest part of transitioning into leadership is managing your ego. It’s tough, says Goldsmith. You dedicate your entire career to winning, but as you get promoted and move up the ladder, winning should no longer be about you - it should be about the team. This, he says, can be a very hard transition for many leaders to make.
For those who are brave enough to put their ego aside, Goldsmith says the rewards are prolific. We all have wisdom: we know a lot, have great qualifications and a desire to help. A good leader has the capacity to put their own over-confidence on the bench, and look to others for answers. They’re inclined to listen to what the others are saying and recognise that by doing so they understand all perspectives and not just their own, and become a well-rounded leader – and person – with authenticity and the backing of those around them. Self-awareness, says Goldsmith, is critical to success.
YOU HAVE TO WANT IT
Counter intuitive it may be, but the clients Goldsmith spends the least time with are the ones who improve the most, he says, and those he spends the most time with often improve the least. Great leadership emerges in a person not when they are told they have the potential to be better, but when they realise it for themselves – and want it. You need drive and self-awareness to create change in yourself.
This is probably one of the reasons, Goldsmith jokes, that he will never be asked to coach Donald Trump!
As leaders of teams and small businesses, we have much to learn from Goldsmith’s approachapproach, valuable lessons which are simple but highly effective. ‘The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit. It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success. Try it.’ So says Goldsmith and it’s hard not to agree!