MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Why Good Leaders Fail

  • 6m
  • Charlotte Hoopes, Jasmien Khattab, Morela Hernandez
  • MIT Sloan Management Review
  • 2021

It is often hard to understand why a leader with a track record of success would — poof — suddenly and unexpectedly fail to meet expectations. This seemingly abrupt and unpredictable form of leadership failure — which we refer to as leader derailment — can be a vexing performance outcome for organizations to both understand and manage.

Even before the pandemic, unanticipated leadership failure was a widespread issue among organizations, with an estimated 50% of leaders failing (meaning that half those who are initially successful will eventually be fired). Leadership failure has long posed a significant financial risk to organizations, given the costs of recruiting, selecting, onboarding, and training replacement leaders — costs that can add up to three times an executive’s salary, in some cases. Leadership failure can also have negative spillover effects on the productivity of other members of the organization, as well as on the company’s morale and reputation. This is especially true when leaders were successful early on and were expected to continue performing at a high level.

About the Author

Morela Hernandez is an associate professor of business administration at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia (@dardenmba). As of August 2021, Hernandez will be a professor of public policy and business administration at the University of Michigan. Links to Hernandez’s work are at

Jasmien Khattab is an assistant professor at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Links to her work are at

Charlotte Hoopes is a postdoctoral scholar at the Darden School of Business. Links to her work are at

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  • MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Why Good Leaders Fail