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December 21, 2009 / Don Sanders


by Tim Irwin

I like to read books in my area of knowledge (i.e. biblical studies and fantasy baseball).  I also like to try to expand my horizons by reading good books for other areas.  De-Railed is my latest foray into the business world.

The premise of the book is simple…look at what makes corporate CEO’s crash and burn, then do the opposite.  In a way, it makes sense because there are countless books published that look at the good habits of business leaders.  To to this, Irwin divides the book into two sections–case studies and lessons learned.

The book opens with cases studies of several leaders who lead familiar companies but eventually derailed themselves and their companies.  For those in the business world, these names probably are familiar (their companies were, but the individuals were not familiar to me.)  Two things came to mind while reading these profiles.  First, while they were interesting at first, they quickly became repetitive.  Second, at some level these profiles in failure seemed akin to tabloid journalism.  While Irwin states that his sources are public, it still just seems a little gossipy as he provides details of personality flaws, bad decisions, and corporate failure.

The second part of the book attempts to gather common lessons for the profiles that lead to leadership derailment.  The lessons learned are certainly valuable, but not new discoveries in any way.  Actually, they are more common senses than anything else.  “Don’t be self-centered.”  “Character trumps competency.”  “Be nice to people.”  Really?  These things seems like lessons that we should have learned in grade school, not at the corporate level. 

In the end, the concept is interesting, but the information could have been stated in about 1/4 of the time and space and still have accomplished the same thing.  Are the leadership lessons valuable?  Absolutely.  Should they apply to any leadership position?  Absolutely.  Did I learn anything in this book that I haven’t seen in about a dozen other books?  No.  It really felt like I was reading  a report by a consultant, which is exactly what the author is.


One Comment

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  1. Kent Sanders / Dec 23 2009 8:09 am

    Have you seen Jim Collins’ new book “How the Mighty Fall”? It sounds like a similar concept.

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