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Why CEO's Fail: The 11 Behaviors That Can Derail Your Climb to the Top and How to Manage Them Hardcover – April 15, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0787967635 ISBN-10: 0787967637 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787967637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787967635
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Take a walk on the dark side of leadership with executive coaches David Dotlich and Peter Cairo. Why CEOs Failsucceeds in tracking the downfall of careers and companies by defining eleven "derailers"--the deeply ingrained personality traits that shape leadership behavior. Among them: melodrama, aloofness, volatility, perfectionism, eccentricity and eagerness to please.

The authors alternate high profile cases (the arrogance of Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, the melodrama of Vivendi Universals’ Jean-Marie Messier, Rick Thoman’s aloofness at Xerox) with compelling case examples from their coaching practice. Each chapter is a gem, illuminating one derailer in concrete and nuanced terms with red warning flags and strategies for damage control. One exceptional chapter explores "mischievousness" in rule breaking leaders including Bill Clinton and Mattel’s Barbie Maven, Jill Barad.

Derailing behaviors can’t be eliminated, the authors warn, because they are the shadow of our strengths. Consider, for example, how charisma can cross the line to melodrama or how decisiveness becomes arrogance. CEOs and leaders-in-waiting must map the stress that triggers derailers and engage in unflinching self-reflection by asking, "What would my worst critics say about my behavior?" Because they counsel leaders to ask these tough and essential questions, Dotlich and Cairo suggest that we approach our leadership failures as research. It’s a brilliant idea. --Barbara Mackoff

From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Dr. David Dotlich is the chairman and CEO of Pivot, a strategic leadership boutique that develops corporate strategy and executive development programs for Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Nike, Microsoft, KKR, Aetna, Best Buy, DPDHL, AbbVie, Ericsson, and many others. A successful entrepreneur who has founded and run two large independent companies, he advises CEOs and boards on issues of talent, leadership, and strategy.

Named one of the Top 50 Coaches in the United States, Dr. Dotlich is former executive vice president of Honeywell International, founder and former president of CDR International and Delta Executive Learning Center, and former president of Mercer Delta Consulting.

Dr. Dotlich is the co-author of 11 best-selling books, including his latest, The Unfinished Leader: Balancing Contradictory Answers to Unsolvable Problems, to be published in March of 2014; Head, Heart, and Guts: How the World's Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders; Why CEOs Fail; Action Coaching; Unnatural Leadership; Action Learning: How the World's Top Companies Are Re-Creating Their Leaders and Themselves; Leadership Passages: The Personal and Professional Transitions That Make or Break a Leader; and Leading in Times of Crisis: How to Navigate Complexity, Diversity, and Uncertainty to Save Your Company, which has been translated into ten languages. He is the co-editor of the Pfeiffer Leadership Development Annual, a yearly compilation of the research findings and practices of the foremost thinkers and practitioners in the field of leadership development throughout the world.

A certified psychologist in career development, life planning, and numerous psychological inventories, Dr. Dotlich was a founding partner of CDR International which was acquired by Marsh McLennan. Previously, he was executive vice president of Groupe Bull S.A., a global computer manufacturer headquartered in Paris with 45,000 employees worldwide. In this role, he was responsible for human resources, quality improvement, and all internal and external communication activities throughout the world.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Dotlich was a professor at the University of Minnesota, teaching at the business school and in the Speech Communication Department. His teaching and research focused on the impact of organizational culture on producing effective leaders, with particular emphasis on women and minorities. Additionally, he was the executive director of the Michigan Business School Human Resource Partnership.

David's interest in people development began early, with a position as a social worker in the Cincinnati inner city through an Edmund James Fellowship from the University of Illinois. He pursued this interest while working on his MA degree in race relations at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. There, he conducted survey research on racial attitudes in the African townships and began an overland tour company, driving throughout Africa between Johannesburg and London and back. He completed his MA and PhD at the University of Minnesota, where he was selected Outstanding Graduate Student of the University. He has also completed the INSEAD Executive Program.

Customer Reviews

I found the book to be a sound primer, but written at a superficial level.
J. Katchka
I highly recommend this to anyone in management -- the better you know and understand yourself, the more effective you can be.
S. Korn
This book details negative traits exhibited by top tier CEO's, traits that undermined them and often lead to their downfall.
M. Meyer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in one shot - on the plane to New York. I'm not a CEO, not sure I aspire to be but am definitely on my way up the corporate ladder. I found this book extremely useful in providing tools I can use right away to "check myself" in the face of a high stress situation (which happens to be everyday).
It was a quick read, provided relevant stories I could identify with, and was a little scary how many of derailer traits I could see in myself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jsdunk on July 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Why CEOs Fail identifies 11 traits that all have one thing in commen. These traits, in moderation, can help managers be successful. But, taken to an extreme, can destroy a career.
The authors provide examples of people suffering from each derailer and then provide diagnostic tools to help you identify whether you suffer from the derailer and advice to help you manage the derailers that you do have.
The descriptions and the advice are excellent, but the treatment is a little shallow. So, if your derailer manifests itself in some way other than the 'classic' pattern you may not recognize it from the information in the text. And, if you decide you have a derailer, you may need to look elsewhere for more detailed advice about how to work through it.
Overall though, the book was a fun, thought-provoking read. It caused me to think a bit about my weaknesses as a manager and I had a chance to see what derailers I could recognize in others!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tony on May 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Dotlich and Cairo have written the book that every leader should be required to read. At the top of the company, it's hard to keep yourself in check and can be even harder to get people to be straight with you about your annoying behaviors that are getting in the way. This book provides great tools to do that, and makes its point about why it is imperative that you pay attention and develop ways to manage your derailers with some very poignant stories.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A must-read for all leaders at or on their way to the top. Dotlich and Cairo help the reader to recognize the signs and symptoms of potentially derailing behaviors, and -- most importantly -- show us how to manage them before they derail us completely. The tools provided are simple, direct, and immediately applicable. After over 30 years in the workplace, I've finally found a book that has helped me understand my own behavior and that of my colleagues -- a book that challenges me to ask myself: "Have I crossed the line?"
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Keith Anderson on October 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Like some other reviewers, I'm not a CEO. I have often thought of starting my own business, though, and was drawn to the title of this book with that in mind. This book is written much better than most business books: it cuts to the chase, gives good examples, and doesn't go on and on about simple concepts as if you were too stupid to get it the first time. It breaks failure down to 11 mentalities that derail CEOs in their rise to (or fall from) the top. This is great advice for ANY manager or executive, and a quick read too. I take much of this advice to heart when I manage others in my current job. A must read!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mark S. Kovacic on June 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The basis of the book is very important to every leader of a department, division or company. The idea of looking at what traits may derail your career is critical. The only fault I found with the book was that the authors were a bit thin on real life examples. If they worked with the hundreds (possibly thousands) of executives that they claimed they worked with, they should have had a lot more examples and deeper ones at that. Real life examples provide insights to the reader and the "ah ha" moments when you recognize the described derailer. This book just did not provide enough of those and so you wonder, are these really derailers?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Katchka on December 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As experienced CEO coaches, Dotlich and Cairo have distilled their experience into an interesting premise: Business leaders fail primarily from internal factors, not external ones. Using a combination of high profile cases and examples from their own practice, they front the theory that 11 personality traits (referred to as "derailers") are primarily responsible for the demise of promising or previously successful leaders.

Virtually all of these traits have a positive aspect, and often are initially responsible for a leader's upward progression. It is when they are overplayed that they tend to extend into weakness - with potentially drastic effect. The primary culprits seem to be reaction to stressful situations, loss of situational awareness, or an unwillingness to participate in meaningful self-appraisal.

Chapter format is consistent, with one derailer covered in each and a final chapter on why CEOs succeed. Interspersed with the case studies are questions and example behaviors to determine "Have you crossed the line?" signs and symptoms, and recommended courses of action.

I found the book to be a sound primer, but written at a superficial level. The case studies are thin and there is a constant undertone that suggests the reader will benefit from personal coaching. Still, for anyone in a leadership capacity with an interest in examining his or her behavioral tendencies, it can be a powerful first step in the process. The book is a fast first read and contains enough meat to hold attention on a more detailed second pass.
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