Sunday, February 28, 2010

Irwin, Tim. Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership.

Thomas Nelson, Inc.. 2009. 217p. illus. index. ISBN 978-1-5955-5274-7. $24.99.

In this well-written, thoughtfully-conceived, and nicely-illustrated publication, which includes several pertinent chapter heading quotes, diagrams, tables, and cartoons, Irwin (Ph.D, industrial/organizational and clinical psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta; M.A. and B.A., University of Georgia, Athens; licensed psychologist; Adjunct Professor, Psychology, University of Georgia and Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida; Managing Partner, IrwinInc.;, author of Run with the Bulls without Getting Trampled, speaker, and authority on leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and executive selection, sets forth his findings and views on executives who “derail” (like trains) in workplaces, a process which may occur suddenly or over time as a consequence of many misguided actions. According to the author, many extremely talented and competent leaders oftentimes fail due to flaws in their characters that indicate their lack of authenticity, self-management, humility, and courage. In fifteen chapters, comprising four major sections, Irwin presents profiles in derailment, describes the process of derailment, and sets forth ways to stay on the rails for the short term and long haul. In the first part, covering the failures of six well-known executives of major corporations in separate chapters that serve as case studies—Robert Nardelli, Carly Fiorina, Durk Jager, Steven Heyer, Frank Raines, and Dick Fuld—the author attempts to humanize the phenomenon and make it universally relevant. In the second section, he describes the five stages of derailment: failure of self/other-awareness, hubris, missed early warning signs, rationalizing, and finally derailment. The third part provides some how-to information for “staying on the rails” by developing your character. The final chapters cover five critical lessons Irwin has learned on the subject and “habits of the heart” that must be cultivated including openness, self/other awareness, listening to early warning signs, accountability, and resiliency. The author has drawn upon his background as a clinical and industrial/organizational psychologist and his twenty years experience as a management consultant in order to produce this authoritative, superior publication. Interspersed with many personal stories and anecdotes, this timely, invaluable, useful handbook is sufficiently compelling and engaging, even though the first part is not investigative journalism and relies on the summation of available public information. (p. xvi) For the most part, Irwin’s presentation of the material is intelligent and well done, although his failure to number sections and chapters may disconcert many readers. Intended for business leaders, this book will interest individuals of all types. Sufficiently well-documented with endnotes, but not a select bibliography, it is highly recommended for many public and some academic and special libraries. As a Nelsonfree product, it is available for free in audio book and ebook format from the publisher’s website once the printed version has been purchased. Additional no cost resources, not limited to a Derailed assessment, newsletter, audio and video downloads, are available on the book’s website, . Review copy. Note: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. Availability:, Barnes &,,Thomas Nelson, Inc.