Leadership is not just for leaders anymore. Top companies are beginning to understand that sustaining peak performance requires a firm-wide commitment to developing leaders that is tightly aligned to organizational objectives-a commitment much easier to understand than to achieve. Organizations must find ways to cascade leadership from senior management to men and women at all levels.

Marshall Goldsmith responded to a series of questions from Rose-Hulman administrators, faculty, and staff members about the value of leadership in improving a company, an educational institution, and its employees.

What advice would you offer to current students seeking to develop their leadership skill set?

MG: My advise would be: 

  • Read as much as you can about the process of leadership and the lives of great leaders.
  • Get as much practice as you can while at Rose-Hulman-leading teams, leading non-profit organizations, and watching others in leadership roles.
  • Get a summer internship, if you can.  Try to have the opportunity to meet and work with great leaders.
  • Learn to get feedback on how you are perceived by others and to accept this feedback in a positive, non-defensive way.

How will globalization and hyperconnectivity change the nature of leadership in the future?

MG: One of my books is Global Leadership: The Next Generation. In this book my co-authors and I asked 150 high potential leaders from around the world to describe the differences between the leader of the future and the leader of the past. The top five greater challenges for leaders in the future were:

  • Global thinking
  • Cross-cultural appreciation
  • Technological savvy
  • Building alliances and partners
  • Sharing leadership

What are the core truths and major myths regarding leadership?

MG: My great teacher and mentor, Paul Hersey, taught me that "leadership is working with and through others to achieve objectives." The key word in that definition is the word "others." One of the greatest leaders that I have ever met is Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company (2011 CEO Magazine CEO of the Year). While great individual achievement might be all about "me"
- Alan has always believed that great leadership is all about "them."

What leadership resources and experiences do you find most valuable?

MG: I think that in tomorrow's global business environment, it is critical to work in different countries and to learn to appreciate different cultures. More than half of my speaking engagements are outside of the United States. Some specific books that I would recommend include The Leadership Challenge, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner; Management of Organizational Behavior, by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard; Hesselbein on Leadership, by Frances Hesselbein; The Leader of the Future-2, edited by Frances Hesselbein and Marshall Goldsmith; and What Got You Here Won't Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith

How do you think leaders can best motivate team members?

MG: I have written an article about this called, "Team Building without Time Wasting." I suggest that leaders involve team members by:

  • Assessing "where the team is" versus "where the team needs to be" in terms of teamwork, partnership, and cooperation.
  • Determining what specific behaviors everyone on the team can work on improving-to improve overall teamwork.
  • Practicing feed forward-learning to get ideas from team members without arguing and learning to learn as much as possible without committing to agree with each idea.
  • Encouraging each team member to follow-up with each other team member
    on selected areas for change.
  • Measuring positive change over time and celebrating success!

How do leadership challenges change over the course of a person's career?

MG: With every promotion, leadership becomes more about people and interpersonal relationship and less about technical skill. With every promotion each of your words and even non-verbal gestures are observed and make a difference.

One of my coaching clients, JP Garnier, was the CEO of Glaxo SmithKline, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. When I asked him what he learned about leadership as a CEO he said, "My suggestions become orders. If they are smart, they are orders. If they are stupid, they are orders. If I want them to be orders, they are orders. If I don't want them to be orders, they are orders anyway." When I asked JP to name the most valuable lesson that he learned from me he said, "Stop and ask myself one question before I speak: 'Is it worth it?'"

Could you offer any advice on how Rose-Hulman can help groom alumni that will lead the future technological frontier?

MG: My suggestion is for Rose-Hulman faculty and staff to go out of their way to work on developing leadership in the undergraduate student body. Provide classes, developmental opportunities, and encouragement for leadership development. Recruiters already know that Rose-Hulman grads are very smart and technically competent. Adding leadership skill will be a huge plus for undergraduates.