Understanding Executive Failure

CEOs are now lasting just 7.6 years in office on a global average, down from
9.5 years in 1995, according to consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Two out of
every five new CEOs fail in the first 18 months (HBR, January 2005).

Recent corporate scandals and bankruptcies reveal that some CEOs fail on such a
scale as to bring down the company with them. Enron, Iriduim, Webvan, WorldCom,
and Tyco are examples. CEOs at GM, Motorola, Rite Aid, Mattel, Quaker, and
Saatchi & Saatchi have led their companies to the brink of collapse at one time.
All were led by executives with stellar track records of previous successes.

Why have some very smart executives failed in recent years, bringing down whole
companies, costing billions of dollars, and causing incredible losses to
shareholders, customers and employees? What can be learned to avoid such huge

“We live and work in a world where organizational failure is endemic—but where
frank, comprehensive dissections of those failures are still woefully
infrequent; where success if too easily celebrated and failures are too quickly
forgotten; where short-term earnings and publicity concerns block us from
confronting— much less, learning from—our stumbles and our blunders.” —Jena
McGregor, Fast Company Magazine, February 2005

The same underlying explanations can be seen as the cause of failure for all
businesses and their leaders – whether they occurred during the 80s, 90s, or
more recently. While the corporate cultures of failed businesses vary widely,
there are visible patterns of similarity across organizations and across CEOs.

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The full article covers the following concepts:

Tracking Underlying Causes of Failure
Four Explanations
Seven Deadly Habits
11 Common Causes of Derailment
Identifying 7 Bad Leadership Styles
How to Fight Failures
Leaders are Humans Too

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