For years, I had been taking notes on what those around a crashed leader would point out as the "signposts" on the road to the crash. It was fascinating. I don't mean this callously. It was fascinating because in almost every case, people around a leader who crashed saw important signs very early on and simply did not act. What is important for the moment is not that they didn't act. It is the fact that they saw trouble coming, even if they didn't know what to do when they saw it. The point is there were signs. People saw them. Things might have turned out differently. I began to compile what people had told me and what I had seen for myself about the signs that signaled a crash. I compared notes with consultants who handle these types of high-visibility crashes. We all saw that while we might have been using different language, we had become aware of the same signs of a personal decline.I realized that while I will always help fix crashes—it is important work, particularly in our time when moral failures among leaders do so much damage—I could help even more by teaching what I had learned about the signs of an oncoming crash. I started calling this "lessons from the leadership crash post-mortem." In other words, if I could show people what to watch for in their friends, family, and associates that warned of a crash, I could do far more good than by repairing institutions and lives after the explosion. I could give corporate cultures and leadership teams of every kind—even husbands and wives—language to use for what they saw but couldn't describe. I knew this could help stave off expensive, humiliating, life-ruining crashes. This is exactly what I'm doing in this little book. I am going to describe the Ten Signs of a Leadership Crash. I'm going to list the lessons of the leadership crash post-mortem. I'm going to explain the ten very common behaviors that are almost always evident in the downward journey of a leader. Not all of these are involved in every crash story perhaps, but most of them are, and knowing just a few of them could save the millions of dollars, years of humiliation, hundreds and sometimes thousands of jobs, and much lost good that might have been done. What if someone had stopped Bernie Madoff? What if a friend knew what to watch for in Tiger Woods? What if someone had courageously confronted Bill Clinton before that first time? What if friends and family had known what to watch for in Bill Cosby's life, or Lance Armstrong's, or Richard Nixon's, or Jim Bakker's, or Brett Favre's, or the pastor of that 3000-member church in Detroit, or the CEO of Stanford Financial? What might Penn State have been spared by some courage and ethics once the signs appeared? We can always fix things after the crash. My team and I are good at this. So are many others. Far better is to recognize the signs of a looming crash and intervene. This can save billions of dollars from lost production, the costs of repair and, even more, what is often lost to human lives.
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