Derailment: Learning adaptability to avoid the dark side of leadership



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This white paper on leadership derailment discusses:

• What derailment really is.

• How and why leaders derail.

• Contrasting assumptions about talent and how these assumptions can be conducive to leadership derailment or effective leadership transitions.

• How organisations can be key in developing resilience and diminishing the risks of derailment.


Most definitions of talent encompass characteristics that are assumed to lead to effective leadership. Many believe that the more a person has of these characteristics, the better. But research into leadership transitions suggests otherwise; that leaders can actually overplay these positive characteristics, to the extent that they become weaknesses.

With a surprising amount of talent not living up to its potential, we carried out research to clarify why this was happening in organisations. We discovered that in order for those with leadership talent to fulfil their potential and avoid derailment, they need to learn how to adapt. In this sense, effective leadership constitutes an adaptability to different roles and situations. Both the individual and the organisation have a degree of responsibility in assuring successful leadership development and reducing the risks of derailment.


Derailment: Learning adaptability to avoid the dark side of leadership, will help you to:

• Understand the signs of derailment.
• Consider what individual and situational factors support leadership transitions.
• Understand why leadership talent is not enough for sustainable performance.
• Shape leadership training to mitigate the risks of derailment.

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