1st Edition

Leadership Failures Precautionary Tales and Prevention Strategies

    158 Pages
    by Productivity Press

    158 Pages
    by Productivity Press

    Humans make mistakes. Many of us lose career ascendency or risk destroying our institutions by doubling down on or ignoring outcomes of our own poor decisions.

    Good leaders learn and teach from their errors. Professions are strengthened. Institutions thrive. Careers grow.

    Through real-life stories that focus on senior/board leadership from multiple walks of life, and brief discussions of significant attributes, readers will be challenged to diagnose and turn missteps into positive growth experiences.

    The authors of this book have had extensive careers in public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit settings, and in independent and government-sponsored consulting, development, academic, and clinical environments. Without having any single leadership paradigm to push, they raise questions about outcomes for institutions that are affected and individual career paths.

    Their cautionary tales ask readers to think through "next steps" or prevent the need to get there; hence, this is an ideal extra-assignment book in graduate management courses and for managers seeking to work their way up toward higher leadership roles. Board members also can learn from its non-industry-specific target readership.


    • Three Envelopes: An Important Opening Parable
    • Is This Book for You? Essential Elements
    • Prevention and Damage Control

    Introduction: Our View

    • Why Us? .
    • Book Organization & How to Use .

    Section 1: Stories

    Chapter 1: Vignettes About Failures

    Vignette 1: Well-prepared for the Wrong Role

    Vignette 2: Counter-cultural Leadership

    Vignette 3: Well Qualified, But Lazy

    Vignette 4: Sick Organization Syndrome (SOS)

    Vignette 5: Large and In Charge

    Vignette 6: Weak Moral Compass

    Vignette 7: You Can Stay Too Long

    Vignette 8: Symbols & Behaviors Communicate More than Words

    Vignette 9: A Single Source of Truth Needs to be Verified

    Vignette 10: Temper Tantrums Are for Two-year-olds

    Vignette 11: Rip off the Bandage

    Vignette 12: Keep the Personal Away from the Professional

    Vignette 13: Leader’s Mind, But Not Brain, Is Lost

    Vignette 14: Family Business or Business of the Family?

    Vignette 15: Bureaucratic Success, Mission Leadership Failure

    Vignette 16: Leadership Failure Cascade

    Vignette 17: Boards Bruise the Business

    Vignette 18: Don’t Confuse Activity With Productivity

    Vignette 19: Small Intervention But Huge Impact

    Vignette 20: The No-bell Prize

    Chapter 2: Essentials for Success

    Attribute 1: Honesty/Integrity

    Attribute 2: Self-Awareness

    Attribute 3: Emotional Maturity

    Attribute 4: Communicator

    Attribute 5: Decisiveness

    Attribute 6: Intelligence

    Attribute 7: Resilience

    Section 2: And Now What?

    Chapter 3: Planning for Orderly Organizational Succession

    Chapter 4: Modeling Career Growth as a Part of Succession

    Chapter 5: Reframing for the Future

    Chapter 6: The Final Admonition

    APPENDICES: Tracking Matrix


    Kate Fenner, Mark Reifsteck, Peter Fenner

    "It is highly refreshing to read a book on leadership about cautionary tales. The twenty vignettes gathered over many years of the authors’ management and consulting experience, combined with the seven leadership attributes to avoid such failures, have important lessons for anyone who wants to shine as a leader."

    Shantha Mohan, Mentor, Carnegie Mellon Integrated Innovation Institute; Author of the Leadership Lessons with the Beatles: Tips and Tools for Becoming Better at Leading

    "Far too often, we share stories around the proverbial fire of what worked in our leadership journeys. But what lessons are missed when we can’t linger with the times where our grand ambitions failed to come to fruition? In this book, the authors do a masterful job walking through their own leadership journeys at the point of failure, using those moments to cast a light for all of us in our own work."

    Peter Boumgarden
    Koch Professor of Practice for Family Enterprise
    Washington University in St. Louis

    "Having spent 30+ years in the government in senior level positions retiring as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and 12+ years in the private sector, this book on Leadership Failures is a must read to avoid the frequent mistakes all of us have made or witnessed in our careers. The book format creates an easy to visualize roadmap to facilitate self-reflection. I was most impressed with the inspiring quotes, vignettes about failures and attributes for success to help you move forward."

    Robert F. Lentz
    Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and CEO Cyber Security Strategies

    "Brilliant. Simply brilliant. If you are tired of sports coaches touting leadership principles of generals, generals touting leadership principles of corporate CEOs and corporate CEOs using sports metaphors and touting the great leadership of coaches, you need to read a book that is truly helpful, not hackneyed. Leadership Failures is that book. Failure is a far better teacher than fortuitous success -- the lessons learned from failure are seared into our minds. Told with humor, pathos, and rock-solid analysis, Leadership Failures is the best guide I know of to lead you to leadership success."

    Joseph L. Shaefer. Brigadier General, USAF, Retired

    "While we learn much from our successes, it tends to be our failures that create the strongest motivators to change. This is an exceptional collection of life lessons written by a group of true professionals. The lessons that the authors have drawn from their work and shared in such an insightful manner are invaluable!"

    Doug Lawson, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer of St. Luke's Health and Senior Vice President of Operations, Texas Division, CommonSpirit Health

    "The book arrived yesterday. I spent much of the evening browsing and diving in it. Oh how I wish I had had the book when I was President of the University of Toledo - I made so many mistakes that could have been avoided!!"

    Lloyd A. Jacobs, MD
    President Emeritus, The University of Toledo; Professor Emeritus, The University of Michigan; Senior Fellow, American College of Surgeons; Distinguished Fellow, The U.S. Council of Competitiveness