Learning from Failure

Some of the best lessons we can learn comes from failures, and the cheapest lessons come when we learn from the failures of other people. As important as it is to study ways to be more successful, it’s also important to study the ways people have failed. If we can avoid their mistakes by learning what they did wrong it will spare us a lot of pain and loss. That’s why I enjoy reading books such as Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin.

In this book he examines the failures of six CEOS of major American corporations. We learn in each case that the failures began long before the actual crash. The failures did not come from a lack of intelligence or competence. The roots of each failure were internal and reflected character issues that were ignored. The author concluded the book by sharing five lessons we can learn from these failures.

  • Character trumps competence.
  • Arrogance is the mother of all derailers.
  • A lack of self-/other awareness is a common denominator of all derailments.
  • We are always who we are…especially under stress.
  • Derailment is not inevitable, but without attention to development it is probable.

No one plans to fail. Certainly, these CEOS never dreamed they would experience such failures as they experienced. They were hired for their positions because of their successes elsewhere, but in each case their personal shortcomings led to failures. None of us plans to fail in our endeavors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t. In fact, if we follow the paths of the individuals discussed in the book failure is a very real possibility.

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