Predictive Leadership: Avoiding the 12 Critical Mistakes That Derail Growth-Hungry Companies
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Predictive Leadership: Avoiding the 12 Critical Mistakes That Derail Growth-Hungry Companies

by Kirk Dando

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Nothing masks issues and robs an organization of its full potential like success

That's right! Most successful, growth-hungry companies begin to miss their projections or worse, not because demand is low or conditions are difficult, but simply because they don't know how to predict, nurture, or even maintain their own growth and success. At each


Nothing masks issues and robs an organization of its full potential like success

That's right! Most successful, growth-hungry companies begin to miss their projections or worse, not because demand is low or conditions are difficult, but simply because they don't know how to predict, nurture, or even maintain their own growth and success. At each stage of growth, natural problems are glossed over in the scramble to expand, making the organization vulnerable to chaos, no matter how strong or expert its leaders. Most leaders feel isolated, pressured to build on earlier success and maintain total control – the perfect recipe for the 12 most common and critical mistakes to show up and slow or kill growth.

Kirk Dando, leadership and growth expert, CEO of Dando Advisors, calls these roadblocks the "12 Warning Signs of Success," and has helped leaders across industries predict, prepare, and avoid them at every stage of growth. Predictive Leadership is rich with real-world stories, prescriptive advice on how to scale your business and limit the drama so you can unlock the growth and success you desire.

Maybe you had the right idea but hired the wrong person. Maybe you're running into a leadership bottleneck, having trouble getting your team aligned, unknowingly incentivizing failure, or losing sight of your core values. Dando, known in leadership circles as the "Company Whisperer," has encountered every one of these obstacles himself, as a C-level executive in a high-growth billion-dollar business. He knows firsthand that these moments of truth determine whether you can lead your company to become a strong, mature, and financially sustainable organization, or drift toward an uncertain future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Every company hopes for success, but few realize that rapid growth brings with it a whole new set of pitfalls. Dando, a leadership and growth expert, shows leaders how to anticipate and prepare for the changes that growth will generate. While Dando’s advice may seem contrarian at times, it proves to be sound and actionable, giving leaders necessary tools to recognize 12 warning signs, including having the right ideas but the wrong people; bad management of great opportunities; leadership bottlenecks; and communication vacuums. Dando links these signals to the three predominant business arenas of leadership, culture, and performance. He also provides what he calls a predictive leader’s tool set that helps prevent, rather than fix, the problems that affect results and examines the dangers of complexity within an organization. Dando offers leaders valuable advice as they transition from startup stage through growth mode to industry leader. Agent: Nena Madonia, Dupree Miller. (May)
From the Publisher

Predictive Leadership will help you see the successes and predict the failures every business experiences before they materialize. Kirk Dando's been there, done that perspective gives you an insider's view of what really happens in high growth companies and shows you how to unlock the leader inside.” —Harvey Mackay, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

Predictive Leadership challenges leaders to take an authentic, eyes-wide-open look at their businesses to avoid common pitfalls. This critical authenticity is unfortunately often missing in business decisions, leading to unnecessary stress on the business and its leaders and stakeholders. When I was starting out, I devoured dozens of business books; Predictive Leadership's simplicity and focus on action 'rather than theory' can help leaders succeed more quickly and with less heartache, something we can all appreciate.” —John P. Mackey, co-CEO, Whole Foods Market

“Dando has broken new ground, and has been teaching an entire generation of business executives how to be more effective leaders. If your objective is to optimize your growth as a leader, pick up Dando's book and heed its wisdom, it is a contemporary classic. A must read!” —Tom Meredith, Former CFO, Motorola and Dell, Chairman of Bazaarvoice

“Once in a rare while does a leadership book come along that bridges the gap between theory and practical advice. Dando has done it in Predictive Leadership, providing real world stories I could relate to and prescriptive guidance on how to predict and solve for the most common pitfalls ALL successful businesses experience.” —Christine Perich, CFO/COO, New Belgium Brewing Company

Predictive Leadership forced us to confront the brutal facts we had yet to address. It helped us steer through the challenges such that we've never stopped growing and are more confident in our strategy than we've ever been. The difference in the company is palpable.” —Gabe Krajicek, CEO and Partner, BancVue, EY Entrepreneur of the Year

“Kirk has written a powerful, insightful book that will make you think, grow and lead differently. Growth happens when you're challenged and uncomfortable, and Kirk certainly will challenge your strategies, beliefs, and willingness to make decisions. Any book that gets you willing to approach things differently are winners in my book, and this is a winner.” —Ben Decker, CEO, Decker Communications

“Most business books and consultants typically tell you what you already know with few recommendations on how to remedy a problem. Not true with Predictive Leadership! Kirk's easygoing, non-threatening approach, plus his solid experience of successfully running large companies, makes Predictive Leadership a winner. It helped us take a number of issues we were experiencing caused by rapid growth and helped us focus on the three or four most critical issues.” —Paul Bury, CEO, Bury

“Kirk has demonstrated a unique ability to grow leaders at all levels in the organization. The insights in his book are essential for developing responsible leaders capable of both building high performing teams and driving sustainable, growth oriented businesses.” —Ryan Robinson, former Human Resource VP, Hewlett Packard, and Chief People Officer, Bazaarvoice

“A good business book will provide insight, share actionable tools, or change behavior, Predictive Leadership does all three. It was amusing how Kirk described my struggles, knew exactly how I was feeling and the issues I was facing just like he had been there with me. Even better were the solutions and strategies that have helped me find a less turbulent more fulfilling path to real success.” —Alex Charfen, CEO, Charfen Institute

Predictive Leadership is a must read for growing businesses who find themselves responding to circumstances instead of pouring their efforts into growth. Predictive Leadership will help put you out front where you belong. I intend to use these principles for my company.” —Ken Davis, President of Dynamic Communicators Intl. Best-selling author, radio host

“Kirk has a knack for seeing company patterns that get them tripped up from their own successes. Knowing Kirk for years, he has the highest integrity and possesses a unique balance of emotional intelligence, strategic foresight, and detail-orientation.” —Sam Decker, CEO, Mass Relevance

Predictive Leadership took us to a different place of discussion. It showed us that the opportunity and our current approach to that opportunity were NOT aligned.” —Tim Hawks, Senior Executive Pastor, Hill Country Bible Church

“Kirk believes that the best way to build leaders is to help them build the skills and experience they need to get to the answer on their own. Dando's advice helps give you the confidence to transition from problem solving to problem prediction. It has helped me be ready to predict a problem next time rather than diving into the weeds on a solution that only works today.” —David Brussin, CEO, Monetate, EY Entrepreneur of the Year Winner

“Kirk's insights helped us focus our energies on 'working on the business.' Whether it's the team or strategies, everything is done in the context of how it drives business. If you truly do the work Predictive Leadership recommends, it will challenge you, your beliefs, your strategies, and your willingness to make the decisions necessary for the success of your business.” —Paul Trylko, CEO, Amplify Federal Credit Union

“It was a rude awakening for me to realize that while it takes the single-mindedness and zeal of an entrepreneur to develop a successful concept, it takes leadership to develop a successful company. And entrepreneurs aren't always accomplished leaders. If you're willing to tackle root cause and can get past the shock of discovering YOU ARE THE ROOT CAUSE, Kirk's teachings in Predictive Leadership can have a profound impact on your business.” —John M Campbell III, Vice President, H-E-B Central Market

“Dando's Predictive Leadership offers a no-nonsense approach to build strategies to reach our goals.” —Bill Morrow, Executive Chairman and CEO, Quarri Technologies, EY Entrepreneur of the Year Winner

“With growth in our company, we realized we needed a change to reach the next level of success. What Kirk shares in Predictive Leadership enables us to take positive steps to implement the changes necessary for our future growth and success. I can, without hesitation, recommend Kirk Dando and Predictive Leadership.” —Neel White, CEO, White Construction

“Dando's experience and advice gives us valuable insights that have helped us avoid some of the pitfalls associated with both rapid growth and the ongoing evolution of our business.” —Johannes Brinkmann, CFO, AM Technical Solutions

“Change is very painful; Predictive Leadership helped us to prioritize so that the disruption has been minimal while the positive impacts have been remarkable.” —Rocky Turner, CEO, LPR Construction

Predictive Leadership definitely speaks to, understands and provides real world solutions to the key challenges you will face as you scale. Kirk really is like the 'company whisperer.'” —Brett Hurt, Investor and Founder of Coremetrics and Bazaarvoice, EY Entrepreneur of the Year Winner

author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Swim Wi Harvey Mackay

Predictive Leadership will help you see the successes and predict the failures every business experiences before they materialize. Kirk Dando's been there, done that perspective gives you an insider's view of what really happens in high growth companies and shows you how to unlock the leader inside.

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Predictive Leadership

Avoiding the 12 Critical Mistakes that Derail Growth-Hungry Companies

By Kirk Dando

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Kirk Dando
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-137-45179-8




So now you know I'm not perfect, I'm not a genius, you are not alone and I'm certainly honest about my intentions. I'm about to make you a promise about this book, so read on.

I think you will find that the ideas in this book are very contrary — with one exception — to the typical attitudes in leadership and business today. The one exception is the group of leaders and businesses that I have had the privilege of being associated with and who have learned many of these successful ideas. Now, let's get started.

As we begin this critical journey, I make you one simple promise. We've all opened books with high hopes, only to be disappointed. We've learned that implementing advice is like wrestling with a ghost: It is really hard to do. Some of us may even have shelves full of unread books or abandoned audiotapes that we cannot figure out how to apply to our own "unique" situations.

The fact is, information alone does not change anything. If it did, we would all be rich, skinny and happily married.

Real behavioral change typically results from one of two things: We either have a crisis or we predict one! Now, I shared with you one of my crises: my parents' divorce, which forced me to change my thinking and my behavior. The better way to grow and change is to predict the crisis, visualize the fallout and, without creating drama, head it off before we have to clean up the mess. Guess which one 90% of leaders like to do ... wait for the crisis!

So I challenge you now. The only way you will gain anything from this book is to do two things:

1. Be honest. Tell yourself the truth. Ask others in your life to tell you the truth as you go through this book and start to ask questions. You can fool everyone else, but do not fool yourself. If you're not ready to face the truth — then put this book down. Pick it up when you have your next crisis, when you have to face the truth and are ready to change your behaviors for good.

2. Take action. You can't simply read a diet book and expect to lose 20 pounds. Similarly, you can't read this book, file the information away and hope for the best. You will undoubtedly find at least one challenge in this book that your company is facing right now or that you can see coming. I'll give you step-by-step guidance, illustrated by examples (names changed to protect the innocent), on how to deal with it. But it's up to you to take action. I'm not expecting you to leap tall buildings in a single bound or climb Mount Everest wearing flip-flops and swim trunks. But if you're not ready to do something, put this book down until you are.

If you are ready to be honest and you will take action, I guarantee you will experience the following life-changing events:

1. You will see and understand the obvious and simple answers that will help you grow, mature and stabilize your business. In fact, you will wonder why you never saw them before.

2. You and your team will become predictive leaders rather than problem solvers. You won't believe the time, resources and worry you'll save by dealing with problems before they ever materialize. This fact alone is worth the time it takes to read this book.

3. You and your team will use your time and talent to craft new products and services for your market, rather than wasting them solving common problems that have already been solved by thousands of other businesses.

4. You will redefine what the journey to growth looks like for you, your team and your business, creating a wealth that is far more satisfying than money alone.

5. You and your team will unlock the opportunities you have been missing so you can get busy changing the world.

Sound crazy? Ambitious? Does it make you nervous? Great! Then we're in the sweet spot between skepticism and belief, between doubt and change!

Don't worry — I'll be here to help every step of the way.


By definition, successful leaders don't take just any action; they take the right action. I know you're busy; I am too. So make the most of the time you're investing in this book. The principles of leadership are constant, but the application of those principles is what separates the true leaders from the posers. The strategies and principles I share in this book are the same ones I used with several CEOs of the Year and Ernst and Young Entrepreneurs of the Year. But only you can bring the desire and motivation to apply what I am teaching you.

Without your desire and motivation, nothing can or will change.

Decide not to be like all the others who read books in the hope of confirming their existing positions or perceptions. Read with an open mind.

You must be absolutely committed to building new strategic muscles and letting some old ones atrophy.

And when you're done, you'll understand how to predict and prevent future train wrecks in your business, allowing you to focus your precious energy on creating breakthrough products and services that fuel your growth.

Ready? Here are four simple steps to make this book actionable from the very beginning.

Step 1: Determine Where You, Your Team and Your Business Are in Your Business's Growth Cycle

Carefully note the characteristics and growth strategies that describe businesses at Levels 1, 2 and 3 (see Part II).

What you will learn in Part II: Once you understand where your business is in the growth cycle, you will have the context and talking points to predict and prepare your team for the issues that growth and success cause in all successful businesses. This subtle but significant leadership skill will increase your team's confidence in you, so when hard times hit (and they will), your team will trust you to lead them through or around the crisis.

For example, let's say you and I were getting ready to climb Mount Everest and you knew I had already climbed Mount Everest several times before. This should make you feel confident in my abilities, right? Now, how would you feel if we got halfway up the mountain and you realized I did not tell you that you were going to need extra oxygen or that you needed to bring special equipment for the severe weather? If I did nothing to predict the very predictable issues we would encounter when climbing Mount Everest, you would start to seriously lose confidence in me as each obstacle arose. Instead of focusing on getting to the top, you would probably start to worry about getting back down alive.

Now, imagine if I instead completely prepared you for every situation that could occur along the way. What if I told you that there might be times when we stop climbing, even though the weather is great, because I know the clouds way off on the horizon will unleash a storm on us at a point where we will not be able to set up camp? And what if I told you each morning about the nature of the next stretch and what it might require of us, all of which turned out to be true? You would start to trust me, but more important, you would stay focused on the task at hand, which is how you successfully reach the goal, getting to the top. Moreover, if a truly unpredictable crisis arose, you would most likely attack it with grit and determination because you would give me the benefit of the doubt and retain your faith in my ability to lead you the rest of the way.

It is no different leading a team in a business that wants to grow. If we can predict the most common problems that growth and success cause, then why do so many leaders and their businesses fail to describe and normalize the journey for their teams? Instead, most get caught off guard and then wonder why they start to feel isolated and alone. This leaves their most talented people wondering why their leaders seem so lost, and their confidence begins to waver. They are no longer playing to win, but rather trying not to lose; they turn their attention to managing their careers rather than the company. They most likely start caring more about getting out with their reputations intact than about keeping the company intact.

The business's growth cycle is going to give you the context and talking points you need to prepare and successfully lead your team up the mountain of growth and success.

Step 2: Review the 12 Warning Signs of Success

You will find the 12 Warning Signs of Success in Part III. These are the 12 most critical mistakes growth-hungry leaders make, and each is a direct result of an earlier success. Each warning sign of success follows the same template; use it to delve deeper into whether or not you have this warning sign of success and what to do about it.

What you will learn in Part III: By understanding and following the prescriptive advice I give for each warning sign of success, you and your team will learn to:

• Focus on the vital few growth strategies that will actually help you scale your business, and avoid getting paralyzed by the trivial many.

• Clearly identify the current realities of your leadership capabilities, your business and your future growth potential.

• Understand how to build, burn or reinforce the bridges necessary for you to move from where you are to where you want to be — without train wrecks.

Step 3: Have the Courage to Start a Conversation

Discuss with your leadership team and your board of directors (if you have one) what needs to happen for your business to grow. Honor them with the same honesty and compassion that you gave yourself, recognizing their contributions in the past and knowing that change alone can be the biggest challenge for many of your people. Honesty is not only the best policy; it's the only way you will be able to lead your team and grow your business to the next level.

At the end of the day it is not what happens between you and your team but what happens through you and your team!

Step 4: Be Determined to Become a Predictive Leader Instead of a Problem Solver

The overarching purpose of this book is to help leaders predict, prepare and take the drama out of the journey of building a successful leadership team and business. This book will challenge you and subsequently arm you with the ability to predict and prepare for problems before they show up in the results.


The real aha will come when you compare your journey with the characteristics or warning signs of success and the stories of others who have gone before you. This will allow you to learn from others, rather than struggling by yourself.

You'll see that you're not alone. I've learned that you get what you set yourself up for. Do you really know what you are setting yourself up for? By the end of this book, you will.

Let's go!




One important thing for leaders to remember: a lot of what looks like chaos actually isn't. As leaders, we like to blame our problems on the shifting state of the world, with comments like, "Things are changing so quickly, it's impossible to keep up," or, "Do I or my team have what it takes?" The truth is, we tend to give in to what we see as chaos. When we do that, we subconsciously give up on the possibility of predicting the problems before they show up in the results. We tell ourselves that there will inevitably be crises, large or small, that we'll just have to stop and deal with.

No one ever talks about the dirty little secret that some results that look like success (hiring more staff, increasing revenues, outgrowing facilities, beating goals, etc.) often breed failure, and that's what sets up the chaos. I'm here to tell you that the environment can be harnessed, and this book will show you how.

What most growth-hungry leaders want is to get and stay on top. What they do not realize is that the journey they think they are on will not get them where they want to go.

The sweet little lies we leaders tell ourselves eventually turn into big bad doubts that threaten our capacity to lead. The 12 Warning Signs of Success will help you see that you are not alone in your rationalizations — but they are often at the heart of your greatest train wrecks.

The sweet little lies are the stories all leaders tell themselves so they do not have to face issues head-on. The big bad doubts are the whopper lies leaders tell themselves that make them too paranoid for their own good.

This seemingly endless quest to get ahead of the learning curve and gain knowledge they know they do not have sends even the most confident and seasoned leaders on a scavenger hunt for information about what others have done to make their journey successful. They join leadership groups that meet regularly, talk to their friends in similar situations, and so on, only to find that compiling a lot of pithy platitudes, alliterative advice and non-actionable ideas is like wrestling with a ghost: It's hard and you cannot stop when you are tired; you have to wait for the ghost to get tired.

This quiet yet violent emotional stir amplifies the "it's lonely at the top" mentality. It also produces subtle but profound behaviors that cause leaders to unknowingly restrict their businesses' growth (playing it safe vs. playing to win).

In short, too much of the wrong information — oftentimes information leaders tell themselves — can paralyze even the best leaders. And you can never win if you don't move.

Look, I'm not here to bring you down. But the last thing you need right now is to hear another pack of lies — "the sweet little lies" — about success. You and I both know it's going to take more than "3 Secrets," "4 Strategies," "5 Keys," "6 Rules," "or "7 Magic Beans" for you to succeed. And a few indicators of "success" may not be true indicators at all. What you need is a book that sheds light on the lies success will tell you.

The biggest dirty little secret is that growth and success often court failure. For every Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Cuban, there are hundreds of thousands of people who failed miserably and will never be the same. It doesn't mean they were not capable, but I suspect they simply weren't ready for the harsh reality of business success: How to find it, how to grow it and — ultimately — how to keep it.

That's right; one of the harshest realities about success is that not everyone who finds it gets to keep it. Too often, once your company has had "success," its continued success seems like a foregone conclusion: once a success, always a success. But you quickly learn that it's not at all true. So rather than fighting to keep their success or struggling to grow it, most people struggle just to maintain it.

Instead of trying to stop problems before they happen, many successful people simply wait for problems to crop up and struggle to solve them, while falling behind on other, forward-looking initiatives.

Do either of the following two scenarios sound familiar? Rather than realizing that meetings are going longer and longer and solving less and less, you simply endure them until everyone is physically there but otherwise on a mental field trip: Little gets done. Instead of holding that lackluster team member or brilliant jerk accountable, you simply endure him or her until the situation finally blows up in your face.

I'm here to tell you that ignoring these problems doesn't just make the problems worse; it can cause really smart people on the team to get frustrated, feel unappreciated or sink to the level of mediocrity that surrounds them. Your best and brightest may end up napping on your dime or leaving to work for the competition ... or worse, become the competition!


In this book I'll refer to what I call a "train wreck," a concept adapted from one of my mentors, John Maxwell. Here's how I think of it: The cars sitting on the tracks have great value because they're loaded with different but valuable cargo (like team members: They're all different but collectively valuable); they have a destination (the vision, measurable goals and expected time frames for arrival at the goals); and they have a route to follow (the mission and strategic plan). But they do not have a way of getting anywhere on their own. They have to hook up to the engine (the leader).

Have you ever watched how a bunch of railcars (the team) form a working train? It all begins with the engine (leader). The engine switches itself to the same track as the car (team member) it's going to pick up; then it backs up to the car, makes contact and connects. Then it repeats the process until it has all the cars and starts heading toward its destination, sometimes picking up more cars along the way.

Likewise, all leaders are conductors, steering their corporate "trains" onward, upward and ever forward with knowledge, experience, confidence and enthusiasm — and, above all else, passion and a sure and steady hand.


Excerpted from Predictive Leadership by Kirk Dando. Copyright © 2014 Kirk Dando. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Kirk Dando, CEO of Dando Advisors, is a highly sought-after and well-respected leadership and growth expert whom executive clients call "The Company Whisperer." A former corporate executive, he has helped more than 5,000 executives - including several regional Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year and "Best CEO" winners - overcome common business pitfalls to unlock explosive growth. As seen on Fox Business and Bloomberg Television, executives relate to his real-world stories and his high-energy, no-nonsense style as he demonstrates how leaders can predict problems before they show up in the results. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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