Management Challenges and Symptoms
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Janice Langan-Fox, Cary L. Cooper and Richard J. Klimoski
Chapter 1: When Good People Do Nothing: A Failure of Courage
Christopher R. Rate and Robert J. Sternberg A stark reality haunts the halls of business management – American corporations, among others worldwide, are shaking and suﬀering from crises of courage. Abraham Maslow (1954), one of the founders of Humanistic Psychology, once spoke of the consequences of people frozen in fear, and of the blunders that follow in fear’s wake: ‘it seems that the necessary thing to do is not to fear mistakes, to plunge in, to do the best that one can, hoping to learn enough from blunders to correct them eventually’. All too often, however, people fail to ‘plunge in’ and ‘learn’. All that remains are the blunders. A growing body of research indicates that up to two-thirds of people currently in management positions fail (Dotlich and Cairo, 2003; Hughes et al., 2002). Blunders abound. Managers ﬁnd themselves ﬁred, demoted, or moved to less inﬂuential and visible positions, or, in extreme cases, imprisoned (Charan and Colvin, 1999; Hughes et al., 2002; Lomardo et al., 1988). For example, one of the largest business scandals (Enron Corp.) in US history came to a close as former CEOs Kenneth Lay and Jeﬀrey Skilling were convicted on 25 counts of conspiracy and fraud. Their convictions carry sentences of up to 45 years and 185 years in prison, respectively (‘Enron’s Lay and Skilling Found Guilty’, 2006). How does derailment of this magnitude happen? Individuals in these management positions (such as Lay and Skilling) are almost always highly intelligent, well-educated, savvy and highly...
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