Interview

“Never promise to do everything people say because it’s not a popularity contest"

Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith chats with Aditya Birla Group's D Shivakumar about the attributes of a good leader, his upcoming book 'How Women Rise' and much more

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Published 3 years ago on May 07, 2018 8 minutes Read
Soumik Kar

Leadership and management coach, Dr Marshall Goldsmith has authored many bestsellers including What Got You Here Won't Get You There and Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want To Be. As part of Outlook Business Leading Edge 2018, we got him in conversation with D Shivakumar, group vice-president, corporate strategy and business development, Aditya Birla Group.

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D Shivakumar: You make a distinction about being a leader and a follower…

Dr Goldsmith: One of my deepest learnings over the past two years is that we all need help. It’s healthy to admit that. We are not going to be leaders at everything we do. Once we get over that line of thinking life gets better for all of us.  

D Shivakumar: What are the traits of a good follower?

Dr Goldsmith: Peter Drucker taught me that our mission in life is to make a positive difference. It’s not to prove how smart we are or how right we are. He also taught me that decisions are made by people who have power. As a follower, I can influence a person in a position of power to make a positive difference. Like a ‘salesperson’, I need to sell my ideas for change. If I can’t sell it and change things, it’s prudent to let it go. 

D. Shivakumar: Not many people know that you’re one of the pioneers of 360-degree feedback. What are the positives? How does a good leader respond to the findings?

Dr Goldsmith: Here’s what I teach people: You ask for confidential feedback, pick the behaviour you want to improve and ask for ideas to achieve that change. Never promise to do everything people say because it’s not a popularity contest. The idea is to listen to everybody, think of ideas and follow them up. It’s called ‘feed forward’. Leaders who do this over and over get better. The technique is not restricted to the nature of work or country. In fact, some of the best scores in the world are in India. It works great here. 

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