Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Derailed - by Tim Irwin

A while back I was sent of copy of Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership from Thomas Nelson Publishing to review (free book, no payment, no strings attached to the review).

It is a VERY good book.  My Master's of Divinity concentration was in the area of transformational leadership.  I love to study leadership and I really enjoy learning how to lead well.  This book teaches that, but only from the opposite perspective.  It is a stark contrast to any other leadership book I've ever read.  Tim Irwin focuses in on how not to lead by examining five people who crashed and burned spectacularly in the business world.  There is a lot to learn from that which can be transported into my church world.  Irwin writes with great clarity cutting to the marrow in identifying the breakdown in each leader he examines.

Those who are infamously chronicled are Robert Nardelli, Carly Fiorina, Durk Jager, Steven Heyer, Frank Raines, and Dick Fuld.  I had heard of all but one of these people, and each failure teaches some important leadership lessons.  And the book would be outstanding if that was all it was, but Irwin doesn't stop there.  He gives you a framework for self identification as well - helping you to see if any of this is going on in your areas of influence and leadership.  He then closes out the book with some sage advice for how not to become one of these flame-out failures.

I seriously think this is a must read if you are in a position of leadership, there is much to be mined here!

As a very interesting aside, this book is one of what Thomas Nelson Publishing calls Nelsonfree. What that means is that when you purchase this book you not only get the print copy, but you get full access to digital copies in a couple of formats (so you can put it on your Kindle, Sony Reader, or in a .pdf for your computer).  You also get access to the digital audio files of the book for your listen pleasure.  This is an incredible bonus in my opinion, and I hope they continue to offer books with these options and that it would put pressure on other publishers to do the same.  I'd gladly pay a couple of dollars extra for every book I get (and that is a sizable number of books) to have access to the same resources.  Great value added idea by Thomas Nelson Publishing!

You can purchase this book from Thomas Nelson directly, or Amazon.com also carries it (I get most of my books from Amazon).

From the Publisher:

Book Description

Vibrant stories of well-known execs who failed spectacularly as senior executives of major corporations.
Bob Nardelli, Dick Fuld. What do they have in common? Both were execs in huge corporations and resigned under less-than honorable circumstances. What derailed them? During Nardelli's tenure as CEO at Home Depot, he collected a tidy $240 million while his company's stock stayed flat as that of its biggest competitor, Lowe's, doubled. It's hard to tell what sunk him in the end: was it stockholder disgust or his hardnosed and autocratic style? He was ousted in 2007.

Fuld was the last CEO of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., which led America's banks into bankruptcy in 2008. Employees were left with nothing in their hard-earned retirement accounts, and no severance packages at all, while stockholders fared no better.

The story of the fallen CEO has become a cultural fixture: veering off course with the force of a train careening off its tracks, leaving fiery wreckage and devastating injury throughout the organization. These executives are often the smartest and most respected individuals in their industries, with glittering resumes and histories of successful leadership. Yet they astonish us by driving the train dramatically off course, blinded by unchecked power and arrogance.

Dr. Tim Irwin believes that these leaders suffer from failures of character that are common to each of us—even the most capable individuals. Deficits in authenticity, humility, self-management, and courage become more dangerous as we take on more leadership, and can cause us to ignore glaring signals that might otherwise save us from catastrophic demise. Derailed chronicles the collapse of six high-profile CEOs and the factors that drove their downfalls, finding that derailment actually happens long before the crash and can be avoided. Tim Irwin explains the character qualities that are essential for successful leadership and tells us how to cultivate them so that we can avoid derailing our own careers.

“A must read for those in and for all who aspire to leadership. Shelves are full of how-to books listing various formulas of what-to-do for success. Missing is a closer look at what-not-to-do to avoid derailment! Irwin fills this vacuum with his analysis of corporate leadership failures. He’s hit a home run identifying those primary pitfalls experienced by well known business leaders that resulted in their dismissal. We all can learn from this insightful study and copies should be required reading for all corporate officers.” —Ron F. Wagley; Chairman, CEO, & President, Transamerica Insurance (ret)

"CEOs are the new royalty. Sometimes these anointed kings are generous, insightful and use their power wisely. Other times they fall prey to the same hubris and tone deafness that felled the kings in the golden ages. There are useful lessons here for everyone, crowned or not." —Seth Godin, Author, Tribes


bob-nicholson said...

Chris, what's amazing to me is that Carly Fiorina is running for Senator in California, and promotes herself as the "former CEO of Hewlett-Packard."

She apparently still sees her tenure there as a selling point for her qualifications, despite almost destroying the company.

At least a few people are trying to set the record straight... check out http://www.carly-fiorina.com to see what HP employees and alumni have to say about Fiorina

mrclm said...

Yeah, I had a relative working for HP during her tenure and it was without question a train wreck. The book does a good job of making that fact clear. And while I understand her acknowledging her time at HP, it definitely isn't something to use as a selling point!