Why CEO's Fail: The 11 Behaviors That Can Derail Your Climb to the Top and how to Manage Them / Edition 1

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If any of the following behaviors sound like you or someone you work with, beware! In Why CEOs Fail, David L. Dotlich and Peter C. Cairo describe the most common characteristics of derailed top executives and how you can avoid them:

  • Arrogance— you think that you're right, and everyone else is wrong.
  • Melodrama— you need to be the center of attention.
  • Volatility— you're subject to mood swings.
  • Excessive Caution — you're afraid to make decisions.
  • Habitual Distrust— you focus on the negatives.
  • Aloofness— you're disengaged and disconnected.
  • Mischievousness— you believe that rules are made to be broken.
  • Eccentricity— you try to be different just for the sake of it.
  • Passive Resistance— what you say is not what you really believe.
  • Perfectionism you get the little things right and the big things wrong.
  • Eagerness to Please— you try to win the popularity contest.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Businesses are often defined by the personalities at the top. Enron's Jeff Skilling and Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski rose through the ranks with their single-minded determination and abrasive styles, but also saw their careers-and companies-fail spectacularly because of those same traits. Management consultants Dotlich and Cairo diagnose the behaviors that can sink even the most talented businesspeople. Whether it's arrogance, aloofness, volatility or any of the other personality flaws they've singled out, the authors encourage CEOs to throttle back on Type A brashness and focus more on team-building that will create a loyal and honest staff. It's an original melange of business smarts and accessible psychology, and the authors' able storytelling brings their diagnoses to life. Unfortunately, after pointing out everything CEOs are doing wrong, they don't spend much time on what they should do instead; a quick wrap-up chapter on successful managing techniques is all that's offered. But as a dissection of the leadership flaws that saw so many executives crash and burn over the last couple of years, this is a book without peer. (May 6) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
How To Manage Mistakes
In Why Smart Executives Fail, Sydney Finkelstein, a professor of management at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, explains why leadership fails and how company leaders can get back on track. Using examples from GM, Mattel, Motorola, Rite Aid, Webvan and other companies, as well as the results of his research team's six-year project on the issue of leadership failure, Finkelstein explains that the causes of failed management are surprisingly few - and they are not ineptitude or greed. He writes that even the brightest executives fail because:
  • They choose not to cope with innovation and change.
  • They misread the competition.
  • They brilliantly fulfill the wrong vision.
  • They cling to an inaccurate view of reality.
  • They ignore vital information.
  • They identify too closely with the company.

Why Smart Executives Fail looks inside great companies that have stood on the brink of collapse due to management errors, and provides the firsthand accounts of those who were present when bad decisions were made. Throughout Finkelstein's book, managers and executives involved in corporate fiascos provide valuable insights about what they would do differently now if they could. By tapping into the people and businesses that learned from the dire mistakes they made, Finkelstein exposes the roots of their failures so others can make their own businesses less vulnerable to similar failings and problems.

Behaviors That Can Derail Success
Executive coaching experts Peter Cairo and David Dotlich offer a more sociological framework for their ideas on the failures of business leaders in Why CEOs Fail. Instead of looking at the business side of the equation, they focus on the leaders themselves and the personality traits that led them to failure. Specifically, they identify 11 of the most common characteristics displayed by derailed top executives, and offer advice about how others can avoid them. Here are three examples:

  • Arrogance: Although leaders need to exhibit confidence, overconfidence can be a burden. Smart leaders are able to see when they are being too stubborn, single-minded and self-righteous.
  • Melodrama: Exaggerated emotions or actions can be a derailer in a business setting because it detracts from other people's performances and impairs a CEO's ability to truly see what is going on. To defuse melodrama, the authors suggest that leaders get someone to videotape them in action, identify the circumstances that cause them to cross the line into melodrama, and make time to reflect and listen.
  • Volatility: CEOs who exhibit rapid mood swings are unpredictable and can drain energy away from people as they attempt to adjust their moods.

Others derailers include excessive caution, habitual distrust, aloofness, mischievousness and eccentricity.

Why We Like These Books
Why Smart Executives Fail and Why CEOs Fail both provide detailed observations and advice about improving leadership. While Finkelstein's book focuses on the recent decisions of high-profile leaders as a foundation for his informative advice about better executive actions, the authors of Why CEOs Fail offer a study of CEO behaviors they have seen in their executive coaching work to describe the factors that hinder their work and the actions that can improve it. Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787967635
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/18/2003
  • Series: J-B US non-Franchise Leadership Series , #48
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 210,828
  • Product dimensions: 5.77 (w) x 8.39 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David L. Dotlich, former Executive Vice President of Honeywell International and Groupe Bull, is a partner of CDR International (www.cdr-intl.com) and coauthor of Action Learning ( Jossey Bass, l998), Action Coaching (Jossey Bass, l999), and the breakthrough best-selling book Unnatural Leadership: Going Against Intuition and Experience to Develop Ten New Leadership Instincts (Jossey-Bass, 2002). He is a business adviser, educator and coach to top executives in many global corporations.

Peter C. Cairo is a partner in CDR International and member of the faculty of Columbia University Business School Executive Education. He has worked with many companies in the areas of leadership development, executive coaching, and organizational effectiveness. He is coauthor with David Dotlich of Action Coaching and Unnatural Leadership, both from Jossey-Bass.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Arrogance: You're Right and Everybody Else Is Wrong 1
Ch. 2 Melodrama: You Always Grab the Center of Attention 13
Ch. 3 Volatility: Your Mood Shifts Are Sudden and Unpredictable 27
Ch. 4 Excessive Caution: The Next Decision You Make May Be Your First 39
Ch. 5 Habitual Distrust: You Focus on the Negatives 51
Ch. 6 Aloofness: You Disengage and Disconnect 63
Ch. 7 Mischievousness: You Know That Rules Are Only Suggestions 77
Ch. 8 Eccentricity: It's Fun to Be Different Just for the Sake of It 91
Ch. 9 Passive Resistance: Your Silence Is Misinterpreted as Agreement 103
Ch. 10 Perfectionism: You Get the Little Things Right While the Big Things Go Wrong 115
Ch. 11 Eagerness to Please: You Want to Win Any Popularity Contest 127
Ch. 12 Why CEOs Succeed 139
Bibliography 151
Acknowledgments 157
About the Authors and CDR International 161
Index 165
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2008

    Definitely an eye-opener!

    Straightforward guide to 11 career-derailing behaviors. While the book focuses on how destructive these behaviors are to CEOs and the organizations they tried to lead, it would seem as if these 11 things should be identified and kept in check by leaders at all levels. <BR/><BR/>Each derailing behavior is a chapter and each has a table of exemplifications of when the behavior is being properly kept in check and when it's gone too far. Further eaach chapter gives some signs and symptoms of when the behavior is over the top.<BR/><BR/>A good book, for sure. The only thing that would improve it is for the reader to take an evaluation at the beginning to then identify which of the 11 behaviors they may have and not be aware of. Then when reading the book, the reader could especially focus on those behaviors they may possess and need to keep in check.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2005

    Highly Recommended!

    If you wonder why all those superstar CEOs suddenly veered off course, executive coaches David L. Dotlich and Peter C. Cairo offer an engaging work of psychoanalysis to answer your question. Leadership failures can result from 11 character traits, either deep-seated personality faults or qualities that once were beneficial but became problematic. The authors offer recognizable case studies and specific advice to bolster their case that these flaws derail leaders. The culprit characteristics can seem a bit general, an inevitable concern in a book seeking simple explanations for human folly. We recommend this easy-to-digest volume to leaders and those who endure them. This is just the ticket for bosses who want to address their possible personality pitfalls before they commit career suicide.

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