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What Goldman Sachs Looks for in Leaders

March 11, 2004
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Behavioral Training, Featured Article
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The list below lists Goldman Sachs’ nine leadership principles. It took more than a year of work by the firm’s managing directors and senior leaders to create them.

    1. Act with a Profound Sense of Integrity and Fairness.The daily stewardship and embodiment of these values--as highlighted in our Business Principles--is the primary responsibility of all leaders at Goldman Sachs. Integrity and fairness lie at the core of our firm’s heritage, our services to our clients and our cultural strength Leaders at all levels of the firm must uphold these values in their daily decisions and actions and instill them in their people as well.

    2. Deliver Business Results Through Commercial Excellence and People Development. Commercial excellence is the lifeblood of the firm and a key source of leadership credibility. Outstanding leaders create profitability not only through business development and client service but also through recruiting, coaching, developing and retaining the best people. Leaders develop leaders, and leadership demands consistent and purposeful investment of time with our people.

    3. Build Strong Client and Other External Relationships. The success of our firm depends on the quality of our relationships with a broad group of influential clients and leaders around the world. Our best leaders successfully develop long-term relationships across multiple cultures. They succeed through outstanding client service as well as playing leadership roles in external business and community groups.

    4. Drive Teamwork Within and Between Businesses. Teamwork and dedication to the firm’s greatest good are competitive advantages. Leaders maintain a strong network of relationships across the firm. They cross-market the firm’s products and services and actively share ideas and talent across divisional, departmental, regional, and hierarchical boundaries.

    5. Foster Learning, Innovation, and Change. Leaders welcome and drive change. They constantly extract the learning from their own failures and successes as well as those of others--both internal and external to Goldman Sachs. They build on our past success but also take the entrepreneurial risks necessary to innovate and grow our business.

    6. Debate Freely, Decide Swiftly, and Commit. Leaders challenge the status quo and have the courage to express and allow disagreement. However, they drive issues toward decisions, and embrace decisions once they have been made.

    7. Promote Meritocracy by Welcoming and Leveraging Differences. Our clients and employees comprise a heterogeneous group of successful, influential men and women from all cultures, races and ethnicities. Leaders create meritocracies that recognize and reward the diverse people and talents the firm requires to succeed around the world. They ensure that all employees have opportunities, free from artificial barriers, to rapidly advance to the utmost of their abilities.

    8. Develop Strategy and Execute. Leaders develop and articulate a clear vision and strategy for their business and set concrete goals toward realizing their strategy. They move quickly, make tough decisions and show excellent judgement. Finally, they are relentless in prioritizing actions and executing to the highest standards.

    9. Create Trust and Credibility Through Honest Communication. Our best leaders communicate fully, directly and candidly, and they follow with action. They are also good listeners. Above all, they recognize that the power of their personal example is greater than the power of their words.

SOURCE: Excerpted from Leading Organizational Learning: Harnessing the Power of Knowledge edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Howard Morgan and Alexander J. Ogg (March 2004; $39; Cloth) by permission of Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint.

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