You just can't plan a career like Marshall Goldsmith's. When he
left Rose-Hulman in 1970 with a degree in mathematical economics,
Goldsmith didn't know where he was headed, other than to graduate
school. Best-selling author? Top leadership guru? Not only would he
have never dreamed it possible, it could never have even occurred
Yet that's what he has become, and it didn't take that long for
move from graduate school to the world of executive education and
coaching. A mentor was Paul Hersey, an executive development expert
known for shaping the situational leadership model. Hersey was a
widely sought professional speaker who one day found himself
"He said, 'Can you do what I do?'" Goldsmith recalls. "I said,
'I'll do my best.'"
That's how, at age 28, Goldsmith unexpectedly launched a career
of professional speaking, executive coaching, writing, and lots of
travel. Last year-10 million frequent-flyer miles and more than 30
books later-Goldsmith was recognized by Thinkers50 as the world's
most influential leadership thinker.
That begs the question, how does the most influential leadership
thinker come up with his ideas?
"Everything I learn, I learn from my clients," he says of the
high-level executives he coaches. "These are real people doing real
work in the real world, and I always feel that I learn more from
them than they learn from me. These are things you can't learn in
Goldsmith has a way of pulling together the diverse experiences
of these leaders and helping make their lessons sensible to
everyone. These range from lessons on the global nature of
leadership, the value of building alliances, and the importance of
becoming aware of one's own behavioral flaws and potential areas
for improvement. Enhancing interpersonal relationships is a
theme in his best-seller, What Got You Here Won't Get
You There, and developing a powerful positive spirit drives
his latest book, Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It,
How to Get It Back if You Lose It.
The notion that everyone can change is part of the Buddhist
enlightening Goldsmith's executive coaching. Leaders learn to
release past behaviors, ease up on ego and the need to control, and
interdependence of all members in an organization.
"I help important people to get better," he says. The first task
is to help them
determine what behaviors they need to change.
It's not just a matter of introspection. His methods include
with people who interact with the person being coached. Goldsmith
helped pioneer the 360-degree feedback technique which solicits
input from people all around the client. He works with clients to
set goals. Then, he coaches them as they pursue those targeted
Though Goldsmith didn't sketch a detailed career path while
attending Rose-Hulman, it turns out his studies in mathematical
economics have been quite helpful in his coaching. "I use
measurement in everything that I do," he explains. ■