Wired for Success

How to fulfill your potential

Your Drive To Win May Be Holding You Back"

Executives drive to win may be holding them back.

The corporate world is filled with talented people who have been moderately successful throughout their middle management careers, but have never grabbed the golden ring of C-suite status. At the top levels, it is rarely competency that separates the top achievers from the rest.

Marshall Goldsmith, widely regarded as one of North America's top CEO coaches, argues in his book, What Got You There Won't Get You Here, that successful leaders must overcome the paradox of excessively focusing on the behaviors that made them successful as it will actually hold them back from further success. Simply put, the drive to win that propels executives up the corporate ladder can prevent them from learning to win through others. Leaders who need to win and be right in everything alienate themselves from the people who can help them leap to greater heights.

These kinds of leaders are rarely aware of how others perceive them. They tend to be impatient, insensitive, hyperactive and insist on their way or the highway. Unfortunately, our current business model supports such behavior, with an excessive focus on business results and shareholder value at the expense of people.

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Goldsmith offers this solution: these kinds of executives need to apologize, advertise their efforts to change, follow up with colleagues to see if change is occurring and listen to others with gratitude.

To support his arguments, Goldsmith conducted research with more than 200 high-potential leaders from companies around the world. Each leader was asked this question: "If you stay in this company, why?" The three top answers were: "I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting and I love what I am doing;" "I like the people here. They are my friends. This feels like a family;" "I can follow my dreams. This company is allowing me to do what I really want to do in life."

Hardly the answers we'd expect from driven executives obsessed with bottom line business results! The answers are about happiness, pursuing dreams and building relationships and doing meaningful work. It's clear that is their answer to solving the success paradox.

Ray Williams is the author of Breaking Bad Habits and The Leadership Edge.

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