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Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership (NelsonFree)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  31 reviews
What causes a leader to fail? What can we learn from those who have fallen? How do we avoid failure of our own?These are just a few of the questions answered in Derailed: 5 Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership, a book for leaders and aspiring leaders of all levels by Tim Irwin, Ph.D. Derailed chronicles the collapse of six high-profile CEOs, the factors ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Thomas Nelson (first published October 7th 2009)
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Norm Konzelman
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are six or seven brief summaries of the character of famous captains of industry, and the decisions they made that caused them to self-destruct in the first third of the book. By the time I got to the last example I began to despair a little thinking, is this book going to go anywhere? After all, you can see the same thing anywhere every day in the lives of people. But then, Wham! The tone of the book changed, and went directly to character. Character that makes a success, contrasting that ...more
Thomas Freeman
Oct 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin

I found this book to be overly simplistic and generalized. Tim took the downfall of 6 different corporate leaders and identified five key character deficiencies he believes contributed. He breaks character in to four key areas: authenticity, self-management, humility, and courage. I do believe the deficiencies were clearly there but I also believe that the derailments may have been more complex than Tim describes
Kristine Hansen
Fascinating how people in high position go wrong. We watch them fall, almost gleefully sometimes, thinking "They got what they deserved." The actions these powerful men and women take seem SO outrageous, we can't understand how they came to have so much power to begin with.

But then we realize that it's not just them, it's us. Maybe we aren't buy $8,000 shower curtains but the little indulgences, the small lies, the actions we take to get ahead show that those same character traits are things we
Tunde Disu
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books on leadership lessons ever! The detailed description of each character highlighted in the book, their background, road to stardom, their highest peak of power and influence, their flaws and errors and the proposed solutions to avoid such makes this a once-in-a-lifetime lesson book.

Highly recommended for leaders, those around them and those aspiring to become leaders.
Gina Herald
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunate story about some incredibly talented people who let pride, greed and self-importance get in the way of solid leadership.
Richard Angelus
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Derailment means "off the rails." To be a derailed leader means to fall short of inner character that results in outer disaster. No one is immune from the derailment. I've been to the dark valley of my character flaw. I went to prison because of it. A minor crime, I assure you, but a serious lack of character issue. WHY and HOW did derailment happen? 

Read my (somewhat) Book Review of Tim Irwin's Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership (2009), CLICK HERE: https://w
Rye Bailey
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The anecdotes on real-world leaders who have derailed setup this book greatly. Dr. Irwin takes principles from their negative examples and gives practical ways to implement roadblocks into our personal and professional lives so that we don't make the same mistakes and end up derailed. I highly recommend this book for professional circles. It was a quick and easy read, but packed with valuable insight.
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant read, case studies with great examples of leadership failures. If you want to understand your own performance as leaders you would do well to evaluate yourself against the spider chart of competencies this book highlights. There is a certain simplicity to the ethos which only makes it that much more accessible to the reader, and fundamentally clear.
Laura Bowman
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Applying the term derailed because of the train wreck September 2008 in California and the fact that it was due to human error Tim Irwin proceeds to give 6 illustrations of leaders who have derailed their careers in spite of the fact they were talented and had a prior history of success.

We all have the opportunity to be derailed in life. Tim’s purpose of this book is not about the six profiled leaders, but instead is to help define what derailment is and to hopefully help us stay on track.

Andrew Murch
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Life's greatest lessons usually come to us through failures. Experience can be a harsh teacher. Often we don't realize critical areas we are falling short until we get derailed. In the aftermath, if we're fortunate to look at ourselves objectively, we can grow and move on with the added benefit of not making the same mistakes the next time around. I've seen this play out in my own life and in numerous other lives as it relates to job performance, relationships, and any other number of critical a ...more
Ellen Christian
Nov 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Derailed chronicles the careers of six CEO’s in the business world. Each of these CEO’s had a career that many would envy; well paid and in control. They also each had one thing in common. They all failed at their careers due to a lack of leadership skills and character.

Derailed gives the reader a look into each person’s career and allows them to see how they failed and what lessons can be learned from their failures. A few of the CEO’s he describes include Dick Fuld, former CEO of Lehman Brothe
Dec 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: leadership, business
This book was disappointing. There were some Collins-esque profiles of CEO's, but in my mind they were overly brief and did not communicate many transferrable principles. I found the book to be a bit disjointed, and the calls to action to be overly trite and vague (like "never, ever be arrogant") I don't think anyone ever makes a conscious decision to be arrogant, so this tip is irrelevant.

The big idea of this book is that character is the most important characteristic of a leader. If you want t
Dec 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-book-list
Tim's book is a wake-up call. He profiles leaders who have derailed and then walks us through the cause of it. The derailments of these leaders are tied to a lack of or failure of one of these four critical qualities:
1. Authenticity.
2. Self-management.
3. Humility.
4. Courage.

This would be a good book for your team or co-workers to read through together. There is a free online assessment as well as part of the book.
Jeremy Copeland
Feb 18, 2010 rated it liked it
A good book for anyone in leadership. Especially those early on in leadership - the point is to avoid the things the leaders in this book failed to avoid. There were lots of nuggets in here, but the main thing that stood out to me was to avoid pride and be willing to listen to other people. Leaders that fail to listen end up alienating themselves and losing their own voice in the process.
Adam Shields
Short review: Decent book on character. The audiobook isn't narrated all that well. But the particular subjects of the book felt like they were chosen and presented in a way that did not really tell the whole story.

The longer review is on my blog at
Pathway Midland
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Derailed is one of the better business books I have read in a while. I have to admit it took me a long time to pick it up but once I did I couldn't put it down. The 2nd half of the book was probably the most helpful with pointing out the things we do that are keeping us from reaching our potential.

Glenn Williams
Aug 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Must read for all leaders and potential leaders in business, the not-for-profit world, or ministry. It takes a good look at the key facets of leadership and if they do not exist, how you can derail any organization.
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this wasn't amazing all the way through and maybe not even worth 4 stars, it was a much needed reminder for me and my staff. If you are a leader and you don't have character, you are headed for an inevitable derailment.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin was chosen by Soundview Executive Book Summaries as one of the Top 30 Business Books of 2010. ...more
Chris Finchum
Dec 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book gives great insight on what derails leaders using several real life examples from business. The areas Tim points out that derail most leaders would apply to a mom, teacher, or CEO.
Thomas Kinsfather
Jul 21, 2010 rated it liked it
The lesson: Don't be a selfish jerk.

Irwin chronicles the fall of 6 CEOs whose character falls trumpets their competency. A good read leaders.
Michael Hearn
Aug 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Amazing insight and principles to implement in each leaders life...warning flags to watch out for
Gina Mcclain
Interesting read. I was familiar with a few of the case studies but not all. I found the assessments subjective. Still lots to learn and benefit from as a leader.
Rat Barrel
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those looking to better understand dysfunctional leadership patterns, this book is a must-read.
Theqs13 Halim
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main....
-John Donne-
Marylee Raymond
we learn from failures. it's just so uncomfortable reading about it.
Lori Grant
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A must-read book on leadership for knowledge workers, managers, directors, C-levels, and entrepreneurs.
Doug Allen
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Good real-world examples of management self-awareness (and lack thereof).
Brandon Allen
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book on leadership examples of failure. I loved the principles for leadership success in the book. Definitely recommend for leaders.
Apr 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
EXCELLENT. So very good. Ostensibly about famous leaders who derailed, it is really a book about the humility and selflessness it takes to be a good leader, and how often we fail at it.
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