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LESSON: One advantage of going through severe adversity for CEOs and other leaders is the purging of the sycophants who have told them what they wanted to hear and empowered the CEOs’ reckless or out-of-touch decision-making. It’s not difficult to recognize the flatterers. Look for the followers that laugh loudest at the feeble jokes CEOs tell. CEOs as a rule are really not that funny.


The below lesson is an excerpt from my recently released Amazon #1 Best Seller, When Not If: A CEO's Guide to Overcoming Adversity, Forbes Books. 


I had always prided myself on being a master of my business. I did not come from wealthy stock or Ivy League connections, so I knew if I were to outperform my peers in the financial services industry, I would have to be smarter, and work harder, than everyone else.


I studied. I was determined to qualify for more licenses, accreditations, and certifications than anyone else. I broadened my expertise from financial planning to investment banking to financing and lending to trusts and estates to sophisticated insurance and to hedge funds and alternative investments.


I raised my public profile. I spoke regularly at regional seminars and filled panels at national conferences. And I dutifully studied books about leadership and human nature in order to better understand the levers of success through the achievements and failures of others. While it’s true that we learn best from failures, the failures do not necessarily have to be our own.


This chip on my shoulder to be smarter than everyone else was likely a key to the overconfidence that I had the leadership skills and experience to navigate these treacherous waters and never lose my company and lose at trial, and certainly never to be sentenced to prison for 14 years!


The reality was, I could not and was not. My blindness prevented me from seeing the deficiencies in my skill set, and my arrogance kept me from asking for help. These two traits—overconfidence and arrogance—spell doom for anyone in a leadership position. Combine that with the unfortunate reality that followers often reinforce the narcissism of leaders, and you get a recipe for disaster.


Assess your business and your life better than I did.


Have a great week!



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