What Got You Here Won’t Get You There Summary By Goldsmith

What Got You Here Won't Get You There Review

Short Summary

  • "This book is designed to be actionable and pinpoint the behavioral issues that prevent us from achieving our full potential for greater success."

Marshal Goldsmith describes twenty habits of successful leaders that prevent them from gaining more success. He also presents his solution comprising seven changes in attitude to break the plateau of success.

Successful Leaders often Mistakenly Attribute their Wins to their Flaws.

“I can succeed” mantra does help to get breakthroughs but can feed overconfidence in ourselves and ignore external factors of luck and chance. “I will succeed” an optimistic attitude does help with the basic drive to meet challenges but also holds the risks of committing excessively and taking too many risks. And lastly, the “I will succeed” attitude may give us a false sense of control over everything that blocks prospects of change. The book explains twenty bad habits of leaders that affect their potential and those around them. It then presents the solutions offering a paradigm shift in their general approach to unlock the next level of potential.

To Reach the Next Level of Success, Leaders have to Overcome Bad Habits and Bad Behavior that Holds Them Back.

Goldsmith says many successful people often have one to two interpersonal problems that keep them from going beyond a certain level of success. Lacking people skills might be the main reason that is holding you back. Although it’s normal for human beings to have bad habits, the impact is much greater for senior leaders. The valuable lessons, in the end, apply to workplaces as well as in our personal lives.

20 Habits of Leaders to Become Successful:


1. Winning Too Much

An excessive drive to win in all circumstances proves counterproductive for leaders. Successful people who go high up the corporate ladder in organizations reach there after the cut-throat competition. They become hardwired to win all the time, and this approach becomes part of their personality. By sitting at the top, they tend to turn every project into a one-man show and ignore their subordinates’ contribution and sane advice to their own peril. In fact, this attitude of wanting to win makes leaders selfish. A delusion of self-righteousness prevents growth. There is a very thin line between competitive and over-competitive. An obsessive need to win at all costs is a problem.

2. Adding Too Much Value

Many leaders succumb to the habit of adding their two cents when it is not required. It is a common trait in leaders. The problem becomes more complex since leaders’ basic job is instructing their subordinates. The higher you go in an organization, the more your suggestions become interpreted as orders, making simple ideas complex at the cost of efficiency.

3. Passing Judgment

Successful leaders often try to control every individual with the same stick. Judging subordinates by their own standards and forgetting that any team’s strength is in its heterogeneity as long as it shares a common goal. It is normal to give and take an opinion, but it is not normal to pass judgment. Position of neutrality is a great skill that needs attention by leaders. Wearing judgmental glasses always discourages your team and breeds passivity and indifference.

4. Making Destructive Comments

The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks are great moral dampers. Leaders need to cultivate positive environments for their teams. Before giving in to the urge to pass a destructive comment, leaders need to answer one question, ‘Is it worth it?’ instead of ‘is it true?’

5. Starting With “No,” “But,” or “However”

Goldsmith explains the negative impact of “you are wrong” that stifles all progress. It shuts down all participants who start inventing ways to get distracted instead of adding value. Saying a flat-out ‘no’ or, ‘you are wrong’ is the nicest form of bullying, no matter how many cute mollifying phrases are added. It stifles all positive progress. Try replacing the sting of ‘You are wrong’ with phrases like, ‘That’s a good point, ‘but what if we consider…?’ or ‘We do have to be aware of that, however….’. By offering them platitudes to make their person feel good, we can negate their opinion with our own.

6. Showing How Smart You Are

Don’t try to tell people how smart you are because it implies that others are not. If you are stressing about your smartness, the chances are you are not. Always downplay your intelligence and maintain a low key in this regard.

7. Speaking In Anger

The worst thing a leader can do is speak or act in anger. Nothing is more contemptible than an angry boss. Using emotional volatility as a management tool will stifle all positive progress among your team.

8. Living In The Past

Blaming past events, decisions, parents, and former decision-makers to find excuses for present failures is a defeatist attitude. It leads you nowhere. many people enjoy living in the past because it shifts responsibility from our personal domain to others.

9. Withholding Information

Withholding information means you are keeping people in the dark to avoid transparency. The refusal to share information to gain an advantage over others is a short-term policy. It is sure to backfire sooner or later. It is a surefire recipe for disaster.

10. Punishing the Messenger

Leaders often hate to listen to bad news and punish the whistle-blowers. This behaviour is equivalent to living in the dark intentionally because no one will ever ring the alarm bells when things are off track. Good leaders always listen carefully and adjust sails as soon as possible.

11. Not Giving Due Recognition

Refusing to recognize positive contributions demoralizes team members. Appreciation and praise cost nothing and if used strategically, have great potential to pump up team members to give their best.

12. Stealing Credit

The most unethical, immoral, and offensive behaviour is when colleagues or leaders steal credit for others’ achievements. Not giving due recognition and stealing the credit of others are interrelated. Someone doing one of them is also guilty of doing the other.

13. Favouritism

Nothing is more injurious for a team if a leader plays favourably. Sooner or later, it will destroy the team spirit with intrigues and leg-pulling.

14. Refusing to Apologize

Egoistic behaviour does not go well with leadership. Anyone refusing to admit his mistake actually thinks him infallible and, as a result, will never change.

15. Not Listening to Others

A leader who does not listen will get into trouble sooner or later. A leader can not remain at the top if he is not using his ears to learn and apply in time.

16. Not Expressing Gratitude

Not using verbal generosity that costs nothing is unworthy of a leader. Saying the magical word “thank you” can be a game-changer sometimes.  You can’t get into an argument if you don’t reply with a judgmental comment. Nothing motivates to get better than a word of praise from the leader himself. So make it a habit of saying thanks.

17. Passing the Buck

Taking credit that is due somewhere else and passing the buck which should be on your table is unworthy of a leader. It implies that the leader is not taking responsibility himself, which will disinvest his team members. A leader always leads from the front and takes on the most difficult task himself. He sets a bad example for his followers by giving in to negative behavioural traits.

18. An Excessive Need to be ‘Me’

Using the pretext “This is how I am” as a management tool implies that I am not ready to change. Leaders take heed of the criticism and adjust accordingly. This selfish behaviour also explains that the person will not take responsibility when things turn bad. He will shift responsibility with the blame attached to it.

19. Refusing to Accept Regret

Nothing degrades the brand value of a leader more than a failure to accept responsibility for his mistakes, even if they are unintentional. Leadership doesn’t allow cherry-picking by shifting blame to others while taking credit for others’ success, in case of some mistakes, refusing to regret them.

20. Making Excuses

Making excuses is a big turn-off. It also means failure to find the real cause of the problem in our own selves. This failure of self-accountability hinders the way of course correction. It leads nowhere, and everyone can see through pretexts.


7 Steps for Behavioral Change for Better:


1. Get Feedback from People Around

Receiving feedback with an open heart is important if you are trying to improve. If you don’t get it, ask for it and after writing it down, only look at it when your flared passions have subsided. If you need to change and improve in a specific area, ask for it, even if you receive positive or negative feedback. It will go a long way in realizing your full potential.

2. Apologizing to Colleague

Apologize if you have done something wrong. It is also necessary for you because it will diminish bad feelings.

3. Telling the World

After apologizing for your bad behaviour, let everyone know the changes you will make. Apologies are meaningless if you are not willing to make changes.

4. Listening

Listening is the most underrated quality in leadership. Changing demands feedback, and you must listen to it with an open heart.

5. Gratitude

Be generous to thank your colleagues and mates in private and in public if given the opportunity.

6. Follow up

Constant follow-up will keep you on track to change for even greater success.

7. Feedforward

Feedback is for the past, and feedforward is for the future. Ask some sincere friends to keep your progress in check for the changes you are working on.

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