Why CEOs Fail Summary


Originally published at: https://blog.12min.com/why-ceos-fail-summary/

Why CEOs Fail SummaryThe 11 Behaviors That Can Derail Your Climb to the Top–And How to Manage Them

Many of us wonder, what it’s like being a CEO?

How did those people get there? What do they have that you don’t?

Well, this book won’t give you answers to those questions, but it will let you know what can bring a CEO down.

Who Should Read “Why CEOs Fail”? And Why?

If you’re a CEO, you should totally read this book. Like, really. Do it.

If you’re not a CEO, but you kind of wish you were, you should read this book, and see what you’re made of.

Also, if you ever wondered why some big companies failed big time, just take a peek, don’t be shy. Or read the whole thing. Give it a go.

About David L. Dotlich and Peter C. Cairo

David L. DotlichDavid L. Dotlich is a partner in CDR International, a former executive vice president, and a co-author of Action Coaching and Unnatural Leadership: Going Against Intuition and Experience to Develop Ten New Leadership Instincts.

Peter C. Cairo


Peter C. Cairo is on the faculty of the Columbia University Business School. He is a consultant, a partner in CDR International, as well as a co-author of Action Coaching and Unnatural Leadership: Going Against Intuition and Experience to Develop Ten New Leadership Instincts.

"Why CEOs Fail Summary"

Are you a successful CEO with a fast-growing company? Do you have everything you have ever wanted in your life, and you think nothing and no one can take this away from you?

Well, what if we told you that there are precisely eleven characteristics you may possess, even if you are not aware of it, that can crash and burn your business?

Interested? Let’s introduce them.


We all know that if you want to be successful, you need to build that self-self-esteem on a regular basis. However, Jeffrey K. Skilling, Enron’s CEO, using his own example, teaches you how harmful the self-confidence can be for your business if at some point it turns into arrogance.


Marketing is all about selling the story, not the actual product. Burst that bubble of insecurity and let your ideas represent the company’s vision because actions speak louder than words.


You don’t have a problem if you have mood swings. The real issue emerges due to lack of control. That is because they often harden the communication with your employees, and the work itself, which usually results in collapse.

“Excessive Caution”

Nowadays, it is challenging to soar up through the company, and you, as a CEO, need to be very cautious. Nevertheless, if you are constantly worrying about what might happen, your progress will be slower, as well as your productivity.

“Habitual Distrust”

President Richard Nixon is the perfect example of a person with a habitual distrust. These people, who never think positively about anything, are the ones that cannot make any progress because they are so focused on the negative that they often forget to move forward.


Although you need a proper distance from your employees, you also need a certain connection with them to function as a team. If you are too distant, it can be precarious. So, if you are easily approachable, they won’t have a problem to contact you for whatever happens.


If you consider yourself someone who can break the rules and act upon this belief, you could ruin your career at some point. Don’t forget that even President Bill Clinton thought he could do whatever he wanted, and look what emerged as a result of arrogance.


Actually, it is great if you differ from the others, we need that kind of mentality these days. It means that you are a self-sufficient, individual whose ideas give birth to a new concept. However, remind yourself that inflexibility can ultimately produce a negative outcome.

“Passive Resistance”

If you want to succeed in your business, don’t forget to speak your mind, even if your belief is opposite of the one that most of the people have.


Being a perfectionist can motivate you to be better at what you do. Still, it may derail you since you’ll never be fully satisfied.

“Eagerness to Please”

It is possible to lose your track to success when you are constantly trying to please everyone. As a CEO, you must establish clear boundaries with your workers in order to make things work.

Key Lessons from “Why CEOs Fail”

1. Everyone fails 2. You can be one of your biggest enemies 3. Balance is the key to everything you do

Everyone fails

Nowadays, we often find our motivation in other people’s lives, and that is okay. Nevertheless, being too impatient and desperate for getting success within reach, often creates more pressure than it should.

This book is a reminder that even the most successful people have been through some quite challenging things, and they, too, have failed many times, but their dedication and their work are the things that have made them successful.

You can be one of your biggest enemies

For those who are already at the top, this book is a great reminder that it is tough to maintain an international stature. However, you’ve got the potential to beat the odds! If you learn, on time, how to recognize, accept and change your flaws, you will come out victorious.

Balance is the key to everything you do

As a head of a company, you have a huge responsibility towards your business and your employees. So, to make things work for everyone, you need to find the balance in everything you do, and everything you give. If you don’t commit enough, a failure will become a possible outcome. Beware of any external influences, and give it all you got!!

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“Why CEOs Fail” Quotes

[bctt tweet="When a CEO and executive committee become aware of the traits that can trip them up and learn to discuss them openly, the entire company will benefit." username="get12min"]

[bctt tweet=“One of the toughest balancing acts in the leadership business is between confidence and too much confidence.” username=“get12min”]

[bctt tweet=“Today, CEOs who are overly cautious frequently fail. There’s just too much data to analyze.” username=“get12min”]

[bctt tweet=“The leader who is consistently distrustful sends a message that people had better watch their backs rather than work.” username=“get12min”]

[bctt tweet=“The irony of being a pleaser is that you ultimately don’t end up pleasing the majority of people.” username=“get12min”]

Our Critical Review

Even though “Why CEOs Fail” delves a bit deeper into the most common flaws of the CEOs and what leads to their downfalls, and gives us more detailed information about it, it is short of real-life examples. David L. Dotlich and Peter C. Cairo should have included a lot more of those in this piece of work.