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Leadership Passages

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Leadership Passages

The Personal and Professional Transitions That Make or Break a Leader


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger: how to survive career and personal passages to build selfhood and leadership.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Authors David L. Dotlich, James L. Noel and Norman Walker connect the growing body of work about the emotional intelligence of leaders with the practice of executive coaching and leadership development. Where does emotional intelligence come from, and how can you stimulate its development in the next generation of leaders? The authors’ answer is that growth is indivisible from pain and change. Any great leader fights personal and professional battles, and earns a few scars. The bottom line: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. For individual leaders-in-training, the question is how to grow after being hit by life’s curveballs. For firms, the question is how to incorporate executives’ personal lives and career setbacks into their development as leaders. In this regard, the book bridges a gap in executive development literature. very highly recommends it to those experiencing difficult transitions, and to human resource and development professionals.


A Passing Phase?

When the CEO of a large corporation was asked about his executive team, he listed their diverse skills and accomplishments. Then he added one other thing, almost as a badge of honor. All of them, he said, had been fired. This was a surprising admission in an era when executives are expected to amass spotless resumes. Yet this CEO saw the experience of falling down and getting back up as a positive factor, rather than a negative one.

Even the most exemplary executive career reflects passages. A passage is an experience that leaves you changed and enables you to develop. Passages have three characteristics: they are predictable, they are intense and they evoke change. Passages alter your perspective and change your view of your work or yourself. They can motivate you to acquire new skills or learn new behaviors.

The following 13 passages are common experiences in the lives of corporate leaders. Effective leaders learn through failure, which provides a second chance to get it right. Most corporate development programs fail to consider the impact that passages have on the next generation of leaders.

Passage One: "Joining a Company"


About the Authors

David L. Dotlich is CEO and managing partner of CDR International, a unit of Mercer Delta Consulting. As former executive vice president of an international company, he is a coach to executive leaders worldwide. James L. Noel is a principal of CDR International and the former director of executive education for a major U.S. corporation. Norman Walker has served as the top human resource officer for several large national and international corporations.

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