Masterspeak 2017

"Once we get over all this macho 'I can do everything on my own' nonsense, Life is much better"

Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith says leaders who get better have courage, humility and discipline

Published 4 years ago on Sep 01, 2017 19 minutes Read
Photographs: Scott Osman

New York/ August 5, 2017

Marshall Goldsmith is based out of Rancho Santa Fe, California but is in New York the morning we finally get to interview him. Crisscrossing the United States or the globe is part of a day’s work for the world’s leading executive coach. He has racked up 12 million miles and is an Executive Platinum flier on American Airlines, the very card made famous by George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham in the movie Up in the Air. Goldsmith also had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Peter Drucker, the world’s greatest management thinker. In addition, Ex-Boeing and ex-Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Buddha and the Bhagavad Gita have greatly contributed to Goldsmith’s evolution as an executive coach. Having taught many CEOs to become effective leaders, Goldsmith is now transferring all his learning through the 100 Coaches ‘pay it forward’ project.

You have been a leadership coach for decades now. Can you summarise the classic challenges faced by successful leaders?

In my book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, I summarise 20 major challenges of successful people. I will give you three to four. The first one is winning too much. It is very hard for smart and successful people to curb their winning instinct. Even if it is meaningful, trivial or not worth it, you want to win. It is more important at the lower levels of the organisation but as you move up, it becomes less essential. One of the greatest CEOs of all time, Alan Mulally, once said, “For a great achiever it’s all about me, for a great leader it’s all about them.” So, one has to give up this need to win constantly. One of the great lessons Peter Drucker taught me was that our mission in life is to make a positive difference. It is not to prove you are smart or you are right. 

Let’s look at a case study where almost all my clients fail. Say you are going to dinner with your partner. You want to go to restaurant X, she wants to go to restaurant Y. You have an argument but you end up going to restaurant Y. It isn’t your choice, the food tastes awful and the service is terrible. Option A, you can critique the food and tell your partner that this could have been avoided by listening to you or option B you could shut up, eat the fo


You don’t want to be left behind. Do you?

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