David L. Dotlich

In many fast-moving, successful companies, strong, successful leaders who fail a challenge present a real dilemma to the organization. Although failure is a powerful teacher, it can also throw sand in the gears of succession planning. The paradox is that even though Bob’s failure may make Bob a stronger leader, it may also make Bob seem weaker in the eyes of everyone else. Rarely is this issue addressed during succession planning. We don’t hear people ask, “But what did he really learn from that experience of failing at X?” or “How will she now be more effective because of her failure?”

Even more important, the life events that shape people-divorce, death, living cross-culturally, personal transformation- rarely enter the discussions that constitute leadership reviews. Companies act instead as if the personal life of a leader doesn’t exist.

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