Derailed (book review)


As I read Dr. Tim Irwin’s latest book, Derailed, I thought about a quote from John Maxwell: “A wise man learns from his mistakes. A wiser man learns from others’ mistakes. The wisest man learns from others’ successes.”

The subtitle of this book is “Five lessons learned from catastrophic failures of leadership.” In this, we learn from others’ mistakes. But then Dr. Irwin goes on to show us successes that we can learn from as well. Combining the insight from successful—or should I say “non-derailed” leaders—with his own discernment, Dr. Irwin shows us how to stay on the rails.

When I first noticed that the examples in the book were all high-profile CEOs, I thought, “What could I learn from them? After all, I’m not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” But Dr. Irwin does an excellent job of bringing the four qualities of character—authenticity, self-management, humility, and courage—down to a pedestrian level where even we non-CEO-types can benefit from his wisdom.

Although the principles in Derailed can benefit anyone in leadership, or aspiring to a leadership position, this book still might not be for everyone. The six case studies in the book are all derailed CEOs, and unless you have a penchant for the business world, you might not find them very enjoyable reading. However, for those of you who enjoy business history, there is much to gain from a careful reading of Derailed.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Learning Tough Lessons

In my role as a book reviewer, I am presently reading Derailed. This book has really jolted me wide awake!

Dr. Tim Irwin is walking through the profiles of six high-profile business leaders who got derailed on their path to success. These CEOs seemed to have everything: talent, opportunity, great ideas, a proven track record of success. In short, everything they would need to be successful.

Yet they got derailed.

Here’s the wake-up call for me: The same thing can happen to me. The Apostle Paul wrote his own “derailed” story about the Israelite leaders:

These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

I don’t want to get derailed, so I’m focusing on God-confidence today.

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