Is There Such a Thing As Winning Too Much?

Ask any business leader if there can be such a thing as winning too much. Odds are, most are going to say there is no such thing. They are thinking of measurements like revenue growth and other business outcomes. Winning begets winning.

Put that question in the context of behavior and leadership development, and there absolutely is such a thing as winning too much.

In our previous blog post we introduced 20 self-limiting behaviors – derailers – that executive educator Marshall Goldsmith explores his bestselling book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Here is the complete list. Notice the first one.

  1. Winning too much.
  2. Adding too much value.
  3. Passing judgment.
  4. Making destructive comments.
  5. Starting with “no,” “but,” or “however.”
  6. Telling the world how smart you are.
  7. Speaking when angry.
  8. Negativity or “Let me explain why that won’t work.”
  9. Withholding information.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition.
  11. Claiming credit you don’t deserve.
  12. Making excuses.
  13. Clinging to the past.
  14. Playing favorites.
  15. Refusing to express regret.
  16. Not listening.
  17. Failing to express gratitude.
  18. Punishing the messenger
  19. Passing the buck.
  20. An excessive need to be “me.”

How can winning too much be a leadership derailer? During his interview with the Harvard Business Review, Goldsmith was asked, “What is the number one problem of the people you’ve worked with over the years?” His response:

Winning too much! Successful leaders love winning in every context! Is it meaningful? Win. Is it critical? Win. Is it trivial? Win. Is it not worth it? Win anyway! Imagine a leader has a hard day at work. She goes home. Her husband or partner says: “I had a hard day!” and she replies “You had a hard day? Do you have any idea what I had to put up with?” Most successful leaders are so competitive that they have to prove they’re more stressed out than the people they live with!

The need to win every single thing is competition run amuck, and hinders leadership.

Goldsmith observes that the lower leaders are in the organization, the more important it is to be the winner. But the higher they go, the more dysfunctional it is to be the winner. “For great achievers, it’s all about “me,” he says. “For great leaders, it’s all about others.” Because of the profound difference between “I win” and “they win,” it’s incredibly challenging to transition from super achiever to great leader.

Leadership derailers exist for all professionals seeking to grow their career, role and influence within an organization. AchieveForum is proud to have partnered with Goldsmith to create a program that helps leaders change. The program applies to leaders at all levels, and is designed to:

  • Break habits that are holding them back from success
  • Enhance trust within their teams
  • Build employee engagement through building better relationships
  • Implement proven tools to sustain meaningful and lasting change
  • Achieve new heights in performance

To learn more information about this program can help your organization, click here.


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