Leadership Development And Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith is one of my favourite writers on leadership. Straightfoward, practical and no BS.


If you don’t have time to read the full article now, make a note of his delegation questions and use them with your team members in your next 1-1. His questions are:-

  • Are there cases where you believe that I get too involved and can let go more?
  • Are there cases when I need to get more involved and give you some more help?
  • Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn’t need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?

Read Marshall’s full article here:

When C-level executives are asked what change they could make to become a more effective leader, one of the most common answers is, “I need to delegate more!”

My caution to these executives is always the same: Don’t delegate more. Delegate more effectively.

Delegation is not a quality like “demonstrating integrity” or “complying with the law.” Honest, ethical and legal behavior is always appropriate – delegation isn’t. Inappropriate delegation can do more harm than good.

I saw an extreme example of the “empowerment is good” flaw in one of America’s largest companies. The CEO naively believed that his employees would always rise to the occasion and see the value of their learning through mistakes they made. He eventually promoted people to levels that were far beyond their capabilities. These people were not ready for the challenge. Perhaps they could learn from their mistakes when the mistakes cost thousands of dollars, but the company went bankrupt when the mistakes cost billions.

When feedback from direct reports indicates that a manager needs to delegate more effectively, the dissatisfaction could come from one of two causes: The direct reports may feel that their leader is micro-managing or getting overly involved with subordinates, or the direct reports may not feel micro-managed at all, but see their leader engaged in tasks that could be done effectively by someone at a lower level in the company.


Courtesy of Marshall Goldsmith

To help leaders ensure effective delegation, my advice is simple:

Have each direct report list her or his key areas of responsibility. Schedule one-on-one sessions with each person. Review each area of responsibility and ask, “Are there cases where you believe that I get too involved and can let go more? Are there cases when I need to get more involved and give you some more help?” When leaders go through this exercise, they almost always find that in some cases, more delegation is wanted, and in others it is not. In fact, more help is needed.

Ask each direct report, “Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn’t need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?” Almost invariably, direct reports will come up with great suggestions. For example, for several of my C-level clients, team management has emerged as an area where letting go can both free up executive time and help develop direct reports. Too many top executives feel a need to schedule team meetings and then act as traffic cop during the meeting to ensure that the time schedules are met and that agendas are completed. This meeting management task can usually be delegated on a rotating basis to direct reports. This helps direct reports understand the agendas of the peer team members and allows them to develop their skills in building collaboration and reaching consensus.

In one example, a CEO was frequently traveling. He would not schedule any team meeting when he was on the road and was falling behind on some important projects. A team member suggested that he did not have to be present at every meeting and that the team could still get a lot done without him in the room. He was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Decisions that involved cross-divisional cooperation were made effectively without involving him. Another advantage was that his direct reports were getting on-the-job training that could help them take on larger responsibilities in the future.

On the other side of the coin, a division president learned that his employees consistently wanted more direction on one key topic. The company was operating in a rapidly changing environment. His direct reports didn’t need to be told what to do or how to do it in terms of technical details. They needed to know how their work was fitting into the larger strategy of the corporation and how their efforts were aligned with their peers both in the division and across the company. By establishing regular bi-monthly check-in meetings with each person, the president was able to increase the effectiveness of the team and help them build better relationships across the company.

What are your next steps? When are you getting too involved? When do you need to get more involved?

Ask yourself these tough questions. Then ask the people who are working with you. The answers may save your time and increase your team’s effectiveness.



Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was recently named winner of the Thinkers50 Leadership Award (sponsored by Harvard Business Review) as the world’s most influential leadership thinker. Along with being recognized as the #1 leadership thinker, Marshall was listed as the #7 greatest business thinker in the world. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was the #2 bestseller on the INC Magazine / CEO Read list of business bestsellers for 2011. This is the fifth year in a row that What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was in the top ten. MOJO was listed at #19. This is the second year in a row that it has been in the top twenty.

What Does Authentic Leadership Mean To You?

Someone I met at a networking event recently (Networking? Now there’s an activity where we often see inauthenticity in action!!) asked me: ‘what do I need to do to be a great leader’? He’d bought all the books, could spout the latest theories, had attended a few conferences with various ‘leadership gurus’ but still he was struggling.


Do we become better leaders by reading about leadership or going on leadership courses? That depends! Both can be helpful to us but continually adding more data and knowledge is not always what’s required. Trying to imitate the leadership gurus doesn’t really work for me although I can learn huge amounts from them. I’d rather find my own path – with a bit of knowledge and understanding of some basic principles of course – which means that for me any work I do with leaders needs to include something on core values, self- awareness; self-reflection and feedback.

So I’m very drawn to the idea of Authentic Leadership – Dictionary.com defines the word authentic as ‘not false or copied; genuine; real’. Authenticity is also defined as “owning one’s personal experiences, be they thoughts, emotions, needs, preferences, or beliefs, processes captured by the injunction to know oneself” and “behaving in accordance with the true self” (Harter, 2002, p. 382).

authentic leadership-exercise

Well, so what??

Authentic leaders are sometimes described as ‘good in their own skin’; open and honest in presenting their true self to others; leading from the heart as well as the head. We know where we stand with authentic leaders. They don’t do ‘flavour of the month’ leadership. Some would argue that we each have many different authentic selves, based on our environment, relationships, intentions. And sometimes, when we are developing as people and as leaders we need to stretch our comfort zones so that what is “authentic” changes.

Authentic leaders make authentic choices – I am very struck by something a colleague shared with me recently – a quote from Gail Sheehy’s book Passages:

‘I realised I was working as hard as I could to become someone I wouldn’t like’ – the very antithesis, of course, of authenticity.

So, if you want to understand more about your authentic self – whether you want to uncover it or to create it – try this exercise as a starting point:

Take a large piece of flipchart paper and draw a picture that illustrates ‘Me at my Best.’ Share with a colleague, friend or spouse…… See what emerges……….

I’ve used this exercise a lot with leaders and with teams and the ‘a-ha’ moments are truly amazing!

Till next time,