What got you here won’t get you there summary – with 20 bad habits of successful leadersJust 9 min read

In this quick, what got you here won’t get you there summary. I will briefly share the book’s content.

What got you here won’t get you there is written by Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall is considered the top executive coach globally has coached leaders like Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford.

In this book, Marshall shares his experience of working with successful leaders. Read the book, and you will get to know how the previous achievement prevents leaders from succeeding further in careers.

What are the key takeaways from the what got you here won’t get you there summary?

  • Why should you buy this book?
  • Where are you right now?
  • The success delusion and why we resist change?
  • 20 bad habits that hold you back from the top
  • How can we change?

Why should you read this book?

Marshall Goldsmith, In this book, analyzes why top achievers are not open to change why they stay in a delusion of success?

Have you observed that technically innovative leaders often fail as boss/manager in your organization? Their technical competence can help them to a certain extent but not always.

In this book, you will get 20 bad habits of successful leaders. So how can leaders change for the better? 

If you are an aspiring coach, this is a must-read book for you.

what got you here won't get you there summary

Where are you right now?

To have a successful career, one must be clear on where are they right now? And where do they want to go?

Life is about going from “here” to “there,” but as per the Marshall Goldsmiths word, What got you here won’t get you there.


Let’s understand the organizational context. Imagine you have reached the pinnacle of your career where you have gained all the technical knowledge and expertise. And because of your technical skills, you are now a leader.

The question is, will only these technical skills be enough to get to the next level of success? 

The success delusion and why we resist change?

You must have observed that people overestimate their contribution to the project, take credit, and have an opinion above everyone.

While exaggerating our contribution and its impact on the organization, we tend to shy away from the hidden cost of such behavior.


All these delusions result from success, not failure, and people get positive reinforcement for success in the past. This positive reinforcement becomes drive force for a better future, and the leader starts to think that they can never go wrong? Worst! They are not open to feedback.

These delusions become a liability as it becomes hard for people to change, and someone points out that we require change.

First, people do not listen or think another party is confused, or even worst, they punish the messenger.

Combining their past success, positive reinforcement, and hope to succeed in the future makes resistance to change even stronger in the people. 

20 bad habits that hold you back from the top

Imagine your boss admitting his personal shortcoming in public and sharing the effort he is making to stop doing it? We can just imagine such a thing, right?

In this book, Marshall Goldsmith has come up with 20 bad habits of otherwise good leaders. 

For the purpose of what got you here won’t get you there summary. Instead, we will see all 20 bad habits briefly.

Habit No. 1 Winning too much

Winning too much is a most common bad habit of a leader. However, there is a difference between being competitive and overcompetitive.


It is the most common bad habit as it underlays all other behavior problems. For example, a leader keeps on arguing until he wins. This spoils the wok environment.

Habit No.2 Adding too much value

It is difficult for most leaders to listen without interrupting others by saying, “We already knew this,” or We know a better way.”

If a leader interrupts most of the time and uses words like “but” and “however” or can’t control himself by adding more suggestions, the bad habit is in action.

Habit No. 3. Passing Judgement

Sharing your opinion is one thing, but passing judgment has a detrimental effect on the team.

Passing judgment can make the team overprotective, and the company may face problems like groupthink.

Habit No. 4 Making destructive comments

Making destructive comments or using sarcastic comments harms anyone. Next time before making any comment think, “How this comment will help?”

Habit No 5. Starting with “No”, “but” or “however”.

Whenever you start with any of these words or any variation of them, it implies you are trying to say “You are wrong.” to another person. 

Habit No 6. Telling the world how smart we are.

The leader wants to be the smartest person in the room every time. But unfortunately, this sometimes backfires when someone offers a practical solution or more factual information.

Habit No 7. Speaking when angry

When you speak while you are angry, there are chances of mistakes that you may regret later. When we are angry, we are out of control, and it’s challenging to communicate when you are not in control.

Habit No 8. ‘Let me tell you why that won’t work’

There are the negative people who can’t see anything good and ready to explain why things will fail? Or why that won’t work?

Habit No 9. Withholding information

We live in the information era. If the information is withheld or shared partially, there is a barrier to communication. or worse, it can result in a fiasco.

Habit No 10. Failing to give proper recognition

When leaders fail to give proper recognition, that harms the team members. They feel ignored, neglected, and pushed to the side.

Habit No 11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve

When we take the credit for others’ work or success, it creates bitterness and an environment of mistrust in the team.

Habit No 12. Making excuses

Making excuses can be divided into two: one blunt and another is subtle excuses.

Blunt excuses blame others for their own shortcomings and mistakes.

While subtle excuses attribute to inheritance or simply “that’s the way I am” attitude.

Habit No 13. Clinging to the past

People stuck to the past have a hard time seeing the future and changing for the better.

Even being successful in the past does not guarantee success in the future. But, alas, that makes you over-optimistic.

Habit No 14. Playing Favorites

Playing favorites encourages the behavior from the team that suits you. This will not bring any new ideas or changes. 

It is also really demotivating for the team members who may differ to agree with you.

Habit No 15. Refusing to express regret

Leaders should be open to admitting mistakes and apologizing timely. If not, it causes interpersonal flaws. But, on the other hand, the team may start considering leaders insensitive brats.

Habit No 16. Not listening

Not listening is a most common and demotivating bad habit of any person. When you do not pay attention to others or do not listen to them, you send out a negative message. 

This behavior is disrespectful to everyone.

Habit No. 17 Failing to express gratitude

Your team member seeks appreciation on time and in a positive manner. If you are failing to express gratitude, you are demotivating them as well as the team avoids putting in the extra effort.

Habit No. 18 Punishing the messenger

If you keep punishing the messenger, you will never be able to know what you need to know. But, on the other hand, you will always know what you want/like to know.

Habit No. 19 Passing the buck

A leader who does not shoulder the blame will have fewer or no loyal followers, period.

Habit No. 20 An excessive need to be “Me”

“That’s how I am deal with it” attitude will not help you go far in your career. An excessive need to be “Me” makes any leader rude, disrespectful, and less trustworthy.

How can we change? Or can leaders change?

In this What got you here won’t get you there summary, we will see the process shared by Marshall about behavior change in leader for good.


Marshall has developed a process for change where you take feedback, advertise that you are changing, improve listening, express gratitude, and follow up.


Feedback always helps. It is a straightforward way to know about your area of improvement or strengths.

Telling the world or advertising

If you are willing to change, apologize for past behavior and tell the world about it. Advertise as much as possible that you are ready to change and accept the help. 

Improve listening

Good leaders are great listeners. Improve listening by doing these three actions.

  1. Think before you speak
  2. Listen with respect
  3. Gauge their response by asking “ Is it worth it?”

Express your gratitude

Thanking people works like magic. It makes you feel light and makes your team member happy.

Never miss a chance to express your gratitude to everyone around you. You will notice an increase in positivity around you.

Following up

As you took feedback on what you need to change? Take periodic follow up how you are doing about it?

This will make you accountable for the changes you are willing to make.

In What got you here won’t get you there summary, I tried to cover almost all the necessary information of the book. This is the must-read book for everyone in management.

Who should read this book?

The organization’s top executives, new managers, leaders across the organization, and anyone willing to make behavioral change.

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