advisor Marshall Goldsmith was having dinner with a top officer in the U.S. Army. Also at the table were seven new generals, all men.
The senior officer laughed as he looked at their bright new stars and contemplated his own retirement—a transition Goldsmith was helping him make.
As he thought about retiring, the old lion smiled and reflected on how he might give these new generals the benefit of his experience.
What the retiring officer said applies equally as well to senior executives as to generals:
“Have you noticed that lately, whenever you tell a joke, everyone laughs? You aren’t that funny!
“Have you noticed that lately, whenever you make a comment, people nod in agreement? You aren’t that smart!
“Have you noticed that lately, women seem to want you? You aren’t that handsome!”
Losing his smile, the top general sighed and continued.
“Always remember, they are not saluting you. They are saluting that star on your shoulder—all that it stands for, and all that it has stood for over the years. Never let admiration go to your head. When you quit wearing that star, they won’t be saluting anymore.”
— Adapted from Succession: Are You Ready?, Marshall Goldsmith, Harvard Business Press.
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