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Becoming A Better Leader

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is one of the world's top leadership thinkers. Not only is he a New York Times bestselling author, he is also one of the globe's most influential educators and a pioneer in helping people achieve positive, lasting change.

Marshall shares his insight on some priceless strategies on leadership and change:Becoming A Better Leader

Identify triggers that affect your behaviour

"As we go through life, we create stories about the people we want to be. But we rarely become these people. Rather, we are bombarded with triggers that throw us off course," Marshall states. By familiarising ourselves with the triggers that prompt unwanted behavior, we learn how to cope, adjust and avoid negative consequences.   

Involve those around you to be accountable

Research has proven that when we involve those around us and constantly follow up, we become better. Thus, ensure to habitually ask for feedback, apply change and measure success. If you are high up in an organisation, you can encourage team members to contribute feedback in a confidential environment, so anonymity is maintained, and your colleagues feel more comfortable sharing.

Marshall's advice is to "listen to what others have to say in a non-defensive way, then reflect and respond positively". For example, approaching your colleagues and asking them, 'Hey, it's been two months since I took on that feedback. Can you tell me how I'm doing? What should I focus on for the next two months?’

Use a spreadsheet to align your behaviour and values

On a personal level, Marshall recommends creating an Excel spreadsheet containing the behaviours we consider to be most important to us (relevant to friends, family, co-workers and customers). Then address each item with a 'yes' or a 'no' (or a number) on a daily basis, and give yourself a report card at the end of the each week.

Some of the items Marshall has on his spreadsheet include:

  • How many times did you try to prove that you were right at work today when it wasn't worth it?
  • How many angry or hurtful comments did you make about people today?
  • How many minutes did I walk, or how many push-ups did I do today?
  • Did I say something nice to my wife and my daughter today?

Marshall believes that, "The more you do this, the more your behaviour will align with your values. You do what you actually believe in."

Don't just learn about it - actually do the work

Lasting change requires hard work. Marshall is amazed at how many diet books fly off the shelves, while Americans get fatter and fatter each year.

"You don't get better by sitting in a class or reading a book. You have to do the work," Marshall says. He believes that being a New York Times bestselling author doesn't make him an expert at applying everything he has learned - he still needs to focus on his own behaviour like everyone else.

Accept you can't win everything all of the time

Marshall explains that one of biggest weaknesses leaders possess is the determination to win too much. If we go to a restaurant and it is terrible, what happens next? Most leaders would complain about the service and critique the food, but it would be more beneficial too not voice your discontent and just eat.

In line with this analogy, Marshall says, "When we're lower in the organisation, we need to win. We need to prove we're always right. But when we're higher up, we need to let others win. We should focus on making other people stars instead of proving that we're right or special all the time. It's not all 'me, me, me'."

Assess whether your input is really worth it

Another major pitfall is the relentless desire to add value. Leaders always want their say. While this can be a good thing in certain situations, it can have a negative effect on others. For example, if a team member comes to you to share an idea, and you tell them, 'that's great, but why don't you...' Then all of a sudden, your suggestion becomes an order and their idea becomes your idea - and the chances of them executing it successfully go down. So ask yourself, 'Is it really worth it?' before adding your two cents.

Women: take charge and market yourself

Marshall says, "Statistically, women are better leaders than your average man because they are more likely to ask for 360-degree feedback. But the problem is that women are harder on themselves. They are more critical of themselves and are less likely to promote themselves."

Marshall's advice to female individuals is not to be afraid to sell the item or idea if you have a good product. "Don't think that just because you do good work, your performance is automatically going to be recognised by everyone. Just like every organisation has a marketing department, you need to be your own marketing function," Marshall says.

Develop attributes suited to future leaders

Timeless virtues such as integrity and vision are always important, but Marshall believes the top five attributes for leaders of the future are:

  1. Global thinking
    In the past, leadership was typically confined to a domestic setting. To be an effective future leader, you'll need to look beyond.
  2. Cross-cultural appreciation
    This attribute is not just about acknowledging diversity in your own country, but understanding cultures across countries as well.
  3. Tech savvy
    You don't need to be a technologist to be tech savvy, but you need to understand how technology is going to impact your business.
  4. Building alliances
    Leadership used to be top-down. Now it is horizontally aligned. The world has changed and leaders are going to have to foster partnerships with others.
  5. Shared leadership
    Most leaders manage 'knowledge workers'. As a leader, you should know you can't tell a knowledge worker what to do; you have to ask, listen and learn.

Ask yourself whether leadership is really for you

Marshall believes many people pursue or end up in leadership roles for all the wrong reasons. He suggests asking ourselves this question: Do we really want to lead people? Or are we happy doing work that's important and meaningful to us?

Everybody shouldn't feel the need to be a leader - in fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an individual contributor. Marshall provided the example that, "If a worker is promoted but doesn't love leading people, they end up doing work they don't like. Then he or she goes from being a great engineer to a terrible manager. The world does not become better, it gets worse. There are people who are great at what they do; they can lead in their own ways."

Author Credits

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is recognised as the world’s no. 1 Leadership Thinker and no.1 Executive Coach by Thinkers50. He is a renowned Keynote Speaker and is the author or editor of 35 books, which have sold over two million copies, and are bestsellers in 12 countries. His newest book, Triggers, is a no. 1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, as well as Amazon’s Best Business Book of the Year.

Marshall’s other professional acknowledgments include: Wall Street Journal - Top 10 Executive Educators and Economist (UK) - Most Credible Executive Advisors in the New Era of Business. He is a global leader in HR thinking and his work has been recognised by almost every professional organisation in his field. He is an executive advisor who has worked with over 150 major CEOs and their management teams. Over 300 of his articles, interviews, columns, and videos are available online at www.MarshallGoldsmith.com. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is touring New Zealand on 28 April, Melbourne on 3 May, and Sydney on 5 May - Click here for more information. To see Dr. Marshall Goldsmith Live in Australia: Book now or New Zealand: Book now.

Interview by Action Words
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