Derailed Leaders

I liked Tim Irwin’s Derailed (Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership). By leading off with six previously successful CEOs (Robert Nardelli of Home Depot), Carly Fiorina of HP, Durk Jager of P&G, Steven Heyer of Starwood, Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae, and Dick Fuld of Lehman Brothers), who eventually failed spectacularly, Irwin reels in the reader and puts the most compelling material right up front.

The five lessons he draws from these morality tales may seem to smack of common sense--because they do--but after the real-life examples, the value and rarity of these qualities come across more powerfully. The lessons are:

1. Character trumps competence
2. Arrogance is the mother of all derailers
3. Lack of self-awareness and other-awareness is a common denominator in derailments
4. We are always who we are--especially under stress
5. Derailment is not inevitable, but without attention to development, it is probable.

The book's value is increased tremendously by several bonus features. First, it is a NelsonFree book. That means, when you buy the book, you automatically gain access to a downloadable ebook version and audio version (I would love to see other publishers imitate this practice; I often coordinate my reading on both audio and in hardcover). In addition, the book's companion website ( offers an online "Derailed Personal Risk Assessment," to help leaders diagnose their risk of being derailed.

While it could have gone deeper into the profiled leaders' performances, and offered more specific, practical leadership guidance, Derailed is certainly a book well worth reading...and heeding.

This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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