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What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith: An Insight into the 21 Habits

Trayton Vance
May 6, 2023
4 min read
Goldsmith's "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" warns leaders of habits hindering growth, offering actionable advice for personal evolution.
Who is this article for?
In this article
  1. Winning too much
  2. Adding too much value
  3. Passing judgment
  4. Making destructive comments
  5. Starting with "No," "But," or "However"
  6. Telling the world how smart we are
  7. Speaking when angry
  8. Negativity, or "Let me explain why that won't work"
  9. Withholding information
  10. Failing to give proper recognition
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve
  12. Making excuses
  13. Clinging to the past
  14. Playing favourites
  15. Refusing to express regret
  16. Not listening
  17. Failing to express gratitude
  18. Punishing the messenger
  19. Passing the buck
  20. An excessive need to be “me”
  21. Goal obsession

May 6, 2023
4 min read

In the world of leadership and management literature, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" by Marshall Goldsmith stands out as a clarion call to successful individuals. It is a guidebook for those who have scaled the heights of their professions but find themselves plateauing or even floundering.

Goldsmith's main argument is that the very habits and behaviours that catapulted these individuals to success might be the ones holding them back from even greater achievements.

In the book, Goldsmith identifies 21 specific habits that often prove detrimental to the leaders' continued success and growth.

1. Winning too much: The need to win in every situation, even when it's irrelevant or comes at the expense of others.

2. Adding too much value: The compulsive need to add our two cents to every conversation which can devalue others' input.

3. Passing judgment: Positioning oneself as the judge of others, which can hinder open dialogue.

4. Making destructive comments: Negative or unnecessary remarks that demotivate and hurt others.

5. Starting with "No," "But," or "However": These words often negate what has previously been said, shutting down communication.

6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to demonstrate our superiority, which can alienate others.

7. Speaking when angry: Reacting in the heat of the moment often leads to regrettable comments and actions.

8. Negativity, or "Let me explain why that won't work": Shooting down ideas without considering them.

9. Withholding information: Keeping secrets or intentionally leaving out crucial details can erode trust.

10. Failing to give proper recognition: Not acknowledging the hard work and accomplishments of others.

11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to success.

12. Making excuses: Shifting the blame to factors outside our control instead of taking responsibility.

13. Clinging to the past: Holding onto past successes or mistakes can prevent growth and progression.

14. Playing favourites: Treating some team members better than others, which can lead to discord and resentment.

15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to admit mistakes or apologize can hinder relationship-building.

16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

17. Failing to express gratitude: The simplest form of bad manners.

18. Punishing the messenger: Shooting the bearer of bad news rather than addressing the actual problem.

19. Passing the buck: Not taking responsibility for one's actions or decisions.

20. An excessive need to be “me”: Holding onto self-limiting beliefs that stop personal development.

21. Goal obsession: Being so focused on our goal that we overlook the bigger picture and possibly compromise our values.

The brilliance of Goldsmith’s approach in "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" lies not just in identifying these habits but in providing actionable advice to overcome them.

He acknowledges that these behaviours have likely served leaders well in the past, propelling them to their current positions. However, for growth to continue, one must evolve.

Many of these habits are deeply ingrained, and it’s easy to fall into these patterns unconsciously, especially when past successes have reinforced them.

Goldsmith's advice is first to become aware of these behaviours. Self-awareness is the first step to self-improvement. Once you recognise these habits in yourself, you can work towards actively changing them.

The next step is to solicit feedback from colleagues and peers. Honest feedback is crucial for growth, but it can be challenging to hear, especially if it pertains to behaviours we're not proud of. However, by understanding how others perceive us and by taking active steps to change negative behaviours, leaders can forge stronger relationships, foster better communication, and drive further success for themselves and their teams.

In conclusion, "What Got You Here Won’t Get You There" is a wake-up call for successful leaders. It reminds us that resting on our laurels and becoming complacent in our behaviours can hinder our growth.

By identifying and actively working to change the 21 detrimental habits outlined by Goldsmith, leaders can continue to evolve, inspire, and achieve even greater levels of success.