Derailed:  Five Lessons Learned From Catastrophic Failures of Leadership

Author: Tim Irwin, PH.D.

My Description: Tim takes the time to tell the “failure” story of six recently influential people: Robert Nardelli, Carly Fiornia, Durk Jager, Steven Heyer, Frank Raines, and Dick Fuld. Through these stories he describes what went right and what went wrong which gives the reader a good snapshot to refer to later. As he moves through the rest of the book, he draws comparisons between failure in business leadership and the derailment of a train. Towards the end of the book he identifies five important lessons about leadership, citing specific examples from the previous stories.

My thoughts: Right from the beginning, Irwin made sure that I knew this book was not simply a collection of biographies, but it was a learning tool. The content was not about them – it was about me and how I could apply the lessons to my own leadership sphere. The stories helped me to relate to how these issues emerge, and made them seem more plausible in my own scenarios. He did a good job of taking away the “that would never happen to me!” aspect.


  • Derailment is all about character. In a society that usually operates by the standard “the end justifies the means” it was refreshing to hear a voice saying that the process does matter – and it’s huge!
  • Authenticity is a relevant topic.
  • “Why am I afraid to tell you who I really am?”  Because if I tell you who I really am and you reject me, that is all I have…
  • Derailment is an issue of the heart.

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