ACTivity/ People Who Do


Manila, 23 August 2017 — Are you a doer? Read why it matters how leaders behave.

The world struggles with a shortage of leaders and good leadership. News headlines attest to this every day.

How then, can we empower more people to step forward and make a valuable contribution?

Not long ago, the well-trodden path for people who wanted to become a leader was to take time off in the middle of their career and invest in doing an MBA. Globally, a select few were able to do so. 

What we know from leadership research today is that what they learned was, by and large, not enough to make our world a better place. The process of developing leadership education in classrooms through lectures and case studies fell short of what was needed, and it was also very slow.

Thankfully, we know of much better ways today. Leadership programs are fast becoming available to people around the world, at almost all ages and income levels. One of the organizations we can thank for that is the Center for Creative Leadership.

By doing research in countries around the world for several decades, this nonprofit has produced a series of accessible papers for anyone who is willing to invest some time and effort to discover what leadership is all about, and what it takes to become a leader.

One of the key insights from their research is that two-thirds of your leadership development will come from taking on challenging assignments, and only one-tenth from classroom education.

This insight alone—which I wrote about in my post What Matters Most—allows for a revolution in how we can grow a new generation of leaders, starting at a young age, and help aspiring leaders regardless of age and in all stages of their careers.

After you gain a basic knowledge of what leadership is about—and you realize that you don't need a title and position of authority for it—you are ready to get started. What matters most after that is to cultivate leadership behaviors on a daily basis. How do you do that? By knowing what the important behaviors are, and by tracking your effort to show those behaviors every day.

Is this easy? No, it is not. That's why we talk about two-thirds of your leadership coming from challenging yourself. Is it doable? You bet it is.


Marshall Goldsmith is one of the world's foremost experts on what it takes to develop your leadership. He has been recognized by Thinkers 50 as the #1 Leadership Thinker in the world.

Marshall works with some of the world's top executives in business, government and civil society. His well-known books include What Got You Here Won't Get You There and Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts.

After attaining such recognition, you might think that he has mastered leadership behaviors to perfection. You would be wrong. He points out that daily work is required for everyone who has chosen to walk on the leadership path.

Remarkably, he explains that he engages a woman to call him every day to go through a checklist of leadership behaviors that he has committed himself to. He tracks his daily effort with passion and precision. He does that every day!

How you behave, you can take his word for it, is key to how you show up as a leader, on a daily basis. In Marshall's words, "People who do the stuff get better. People who don't, don't get better." It's simply all about you and your behavior.

Earlier this month, a group of leaders from Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Europe and the Americas worked with me how to discover and track leadership behaviors in a one-week intensive program at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. After a week, they affirmed how valuable it is to use a tool to make progress every day and build habits for the long term. Their scores increased.

What about your leadership behaviors? Are you a leader who will do the stuff and get better at it, on a daily basis?

People who do the stuff get better. People who don’t, don’t get better.
— Marshall Goldsmith