A look at derailment today

By Jean Leslie & Ellen Van Velsor
Center for Creative Leadership


Research studies conducted at the Center for Creative Leadership during the 1980s explored the dynamics of derailment among North American executives. Most of these studies contrasted people who “make it” to the top with those who derail as a way to understand the kinds of development needed for senior leadership positions. The derailed manager is one who, having reached at least the general manager level, either leaves the organization involuntarily (through resignation, being fired, or retiring early) or reaches a plateau as a result of a perceived lack of fit between personal characteristics and skills and the demands of the job. The Center for Creative Leadership extended its research by comparing derailed and successful executives in the United States and in Europe, and by comparing these results to the earlier findings. The result is a review of Center for Creative Leadership’s research on executive derailment, a presentation of findings for North Americans and Europeans, and finally a comparison of derailment and success themes over time and across cultures that is geared toward a further understanding of the development needed for achieving and maintaining success at senior-level positions.


Leslie, J. B., & Van Velsor, E. (1996). A look at derailment today: North America and Europe. Center for Creative Leadership. https://doi.org/10.35613/ccl.1996.2006

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