Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 13th 2014 Contents What does derailment
have to do with
leadership and why
do leaders derail?
two senior Ministers of Government were
revoked, in a prominent financial institution,
a senior manager was fired and an independ-
ent senator, who was also chairman of the
Stock Exchange resigned.
The question remains: what was the underlying cause of
The late Steve Jobs---considered one of the most successful
CEOs of our time---derailed from the company he founded.
However, he learned from his failures and came back to succeed
Derail simply means "cause to run off the rails." Applying
this definition to leadership, what causes our leaders to run
their careers off the tracks?
Dr Tim Irwin, author of Derailed said that "derailment in
our jobs means that we are off the rails. We cannot proceed
in our present jobs, just as a derailed train cannot continue
on its intended path."
Dr Irwin stated that leaders derail because of a failure in
character, not in the sense of dishonesty that results in fraudulent
behaviour, but because of excessive pride or self-confidence
and being dismissive of others.
Many people who aspire to high office become arrogant
when they get there and dismiss the people who helped them
attain success. They develop an entitlement mentality: "I made
this company what it is, and deserve to be treated special."
Some of them begin to think that the profits of the company
are for their own benefit. Maybe this is also the reason why
the population has a perception that ministers of government,
both past and present, feel the Treasury is at their dispos-
al.Our character and values guide us in all our decisions as
well as how we treat the people we interact with. The traits
of our character that causes derailment
are rooted in these four critical qualities:
These behaviours are the ones that can
mould our character and help us achieve
the very success we seek, but when we
allow ourselves to go to the dark side, that
is when we go off track.
In Leadership From The Inside Out, the late Kevin Cashman
makes a powerful distinction between character, the essence
of who we are, and the persona: the external personality we
have created to cope with our everyday life. "A leader who
leads through character is guided by authenticity, while the
one who leads from persona is guided by image."
Therefore, leaders who choose to lead from a position of
character, guided by trust and compassion will stay on track.
However, the leader who is concerned about his self-interest
and leads from a position of fear, will fail to command the
respect and support from their followers.
Can we truly lead people if we cannot manage ourselves?
Leaders who fail to take responsibility for their own actions
and behaviours do not possess the ability to display self-
control, to be trustworthy, show initiative, be flexible and pos-
itively direct their own behaviour.
Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela all
had one common thread between them, and that was humility.
Leaders who want to inspire people need to demonstrate not
what they have accomplished in life, but their character.
They must have pride in what they are doing and use their
position as a platform to bring people together to do greater
things for example, to build organizations and countries where
people work and live in harmony.
Humility allows leaders to ask "How can I help" rather than
say "I built this company, so the profits belong to me" or "this
is my Ministry and therefore I can help only my friends and
family". Leadership is about building character first and then
So what is courage?
It is simply acting on what we should do, regardless of any
fear we may have. It is choosing to live life guided by our
values and to do what is right. It is to pursue our dreams, to
be successful people, to lead the way for others.
When leaders lack courage and allow fear and arrogance to
creep in, they will fail to do the right thing because it is the
right thing to do.
Leaders who lack courage will fail to take the decisions
needed to move an organisation forward.
In the corporate world, leaders who demonstrate courage
are considered as innovators and opinion leaders, whilst those
who lack of courage are viewed as "yes men" who are the
politically correct defenders of status quo. In politics, leaders
with courage are statesmen and stateswomen and those who
do not have the courage to act by good character will be con-
As Winston Churchill, a former British Prime Minister said
"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities...
because it is the quality which guarantees all others."
In conclusion, leaders derail as a result of failure in character.
Jim Rohn, wisely wrote "character isn t something you were
born with and can t change, like your fingerprints. It s something
you weren t born with, and must take responsibility for forming."
BA (Hons), Dip L.C., CCC, CLTMC
APRIL 13 • 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | SBG19
Why leaders derail
Leaders who fail to take responsibility for their own actions and behaviours do
not possess the ability to display self-control, to be trustworthy, show initiative,
be flexible and positively direct their own behaviour.
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