Marshall Goldsmith, Winning too much and Game of Chicken

In Game Theory there is an interesting game called “Chicken”. The game of chicken models two drivers, both headed for a single-lane bridge from opposite directions. The first to swerve away yields the bridge to the other. If neither player swerves, the result is a costly deadlock in the middle of the bridge, or a potentially fatal head-on collision.


Most of the cases it ends in either deadlock or collision, because no one wants to be called “chicken”. Winning becomes important, even at the cost of loss associated with winning.

'Alright, Captain, are you ready to play 'Chicken'?'

Renowned coach Marshall Goldsmith has made list of 20 bad habits of leaders. Of these number one is “Winning too much”. Leaders love at all cost and in all situations, they want to win contracts, get ahead of colleagues and even want to win argument with spouse.

“Winners love winning. So, if it’s:

–          Important, we want to win.

–          Meaningful, we want to win.

–          Critical, we want to win.

–          Trivial, we want to win.

–          Not worth it? We want to win anyway!”

-Marshall Goldsmith

His advice to leaders who want to climb career ladder is to stop this habit of winning at any cost.

“Winning too much is the #1 challenge for most people, because it underlies nearly every other behavioral problem. If we argue too much, it’s because we want our view to prevail (in other words we want to win). If we put other people down, it’s our way to position them beneath us (again, winning). If we withhold information, it’s to gain an edge over others. If we play favorites, it’s to gain allies so “our side” has an advantage.”

-Marshall Goldsmith


He feels that there are some arguments that are not worth winning, you may end up winning but end up losing an important client or relationship. So at times it is wise to let go. So in game of chicken if drivers show wisdom, both can win.

“The next time you start trying to win and prove you’re right, take a deep breath and ask yourself: Exactly what am I winning? Is this really something I want to win or need to win? Is this even worth the effort? We can become more successful if we appreciate this “flaw” and work to suppress it in all of our interpersonal relations.”

-Marshall Goldsmith


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