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5 Insights from a Classic Leadership Book by an Executive Coach Who’s Helped over 150 CEOs

Bestselling author Marshall Goldsmith, a top executive coach who’s worked with more than 150 CEOs and been named multiple times to theThinkers50 list of influential management thinkers, published the book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, with Mark Reiter in 2007. His goal was to help managers at all levels pinpoint exactly which behaviors they need to change and how to do it. The thrust is that just because you’ve been able to get by with your counterproductive habits doesn’t mean you’ll be able to reach the top of your field with those same tendencies. If you’re set on progressing in your career, you’ve got to commit yourself to a course of personal development, which will likely be as uncomfortable as it is rewarding. Below, Business Insider breaks down the book’s five most important insights on becoming an effective leader:

1. Don’t fall into the ‘superstition trap’

Your destructive habits — from taking credit for others’ efforts to constantly making excuses — probably aren’t what helped you reach this level of success, and they definitely won’t help you get further.Here’s Goldsmith:”One of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption, ‘I behave this way, and I achieve results. Therefore, I must be achieving results because I behave this way.'”This belief is sometimes true, but not across the board. That’s where superstition kicks in. It creates the core fallacy necessitating this book, the reason that ‘what got us here won’t get us there.’ I’m talking about the difference between success that happens because of our behavior and the success that comes in spite of our behavior.”

2. Technical chops aren’t enough for leaders

Interpersonal skills get more and more important as you climb the corporate ladder.Here’s Goldsmith:”At the higher levels of organizational life, all the leading players are technically skilled. They’re all smart. They’re all up to date on the technical aspects of their job. …”That’s why behavioral issues become so important at the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. All other things being equal, your people skills (or lack of them) become more pronounced the higher up you go. In fact, even when all other things are not equal, your people skills often make the difference in how high you go.”

3. Your effectiveness as a leader is based on others’ perceptions of you

What you think of yourself doesn’t matter as much — so stop trying to conform to some arbitrary notion of your unique self.Here’s Goldsmith:”It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success.”Keep this in mind when you find yourself resisting change because you’re clinging to a false — or pointless — notion of ‘me.’ It’s not about you. It’s about what other people think of you.”

4. Listening to what other people say is the most important skill for a leader to develop

That’s especially true if you’re trying to change your habits.Here’s Goldsmith:”The only difference between us and the super-successful among us — the near-great and the great — is that the great ones  [listen] all the time. It’s automatic for them. For them there’s no on and off switch for caring and empathy and showing respect. It’s always on. They don’t rank personal encounters as A, B, or C in importance. They treat everyone equally — and everyone eventually notices.”

5. You need to pick and choose your areas of improvement

It’s best to focus on what’s causing the biggest problem among the biggest group of people.Here’s Goldsmith:”Take a look around your office. Someone’s the best salesman. Someone else is the best accountant. Someone else is the best manager. No one is the best at everything.”This isn’t a license for mediocrity. It’s a reality check. It’s your permission to deal in trade-offs and pick one thing to improve upon rather than everything.”

Business Insider/August, 2016