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Why leaders fail: exploring the darkside

Ronald J. Burke (Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 1 January 2006



With half of those in leadership positions maybe falling short, the purpose of this paper is to review literature on why leaders fail.


A number of recent journal articles, book chapters and books were examined.


The paper identified common causes of failure and possible remedial actions. Leaders that fail behave in ways reflective of their personality that limit or derail their careers. These flaws include arrogance, aloofness, perfectionism, insensitivity, selfishness and betraying the trust of others.

Research limitations/implications

Very little research on this important topic has been conducted.

Practical implications

Solutions highlight the role of early feedback in reducing leadership failures.


This paper raises a topic important in leadership development but ignored by both researchers and managers.



Burke, R.J. (2006), "Why leaders fail: exploring the darkside", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 91-100.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited