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Weinzimmer Presents - The Wisdom of Failure Webinar

By: Amber Gruenloh-Luecke

On Thursday (November 14) Bradley Professor and alum Dr. Larry Weinzimmer ’83 MBA ’85 presented a 1-hour webinar entitled “The Wisdom of Failure” based on his recent co-authored book, The Wisdom of Failure – How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons without Paying the Price from the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center on Bradley’s campus.

Within the 60 minutes session Weinzimmer discussed a portion of the book that he referred to as – The Darkside of Leadership. Through the book’s seven-year study of almost 1,000 managers across 21 industries including exclusive interviews with CEOs Weinzimmer defines ‘The Darkside of Leadership’ in three parts: personality flaws, drama management, and unbalanced orchestration. The majority of the webinar describes, defines and provides some examples of each part. Watch the webinar here.

Sponsored by the Bradley University Alumni Association (BUAA) and hosted by Lori Winters Fan ’80, Executive Director of the BUAA, Dr. Weinzimmer answered a several questions from the nearly 100 viewers LIVE. Due to the number of questions received not all questions were able to be addressed LIVE; therefore, please see the collection of all questions submitted below along with their answers.

This webinar is the second professional development webinar hosted by the BUAA.  Future webinars are being planned to address our changing political landscape as well as other topics related to leadership and professional development. They provide a preview of the learning opportunities offered during the Bradley University Leadership Summit.  This first-time event will be held on campus June 13-15, 2013, and will feature some of Bradley's most distinguished faculty, staff, and alumni. Go to for more information about this event! 

Click the image below to view 'The Wisdom of Failure' webinar. 

Dr. Weinzimmer Q & A

Q:  How do you define failure?

A: Failure comes in many shapes and sizes.  Some mistakes are catastrophic, others may go unnoticed. Some are avoidable; some are results of taking healthy risks. There is no one best way to define failure; however the biggest failure is the fear of taking risks because you are afraid of making mistakes. 

Q: What were the sizes of companies interviewed and are these traits the same for small organizations too?

A: We looked at companies ranging from 5 employees to Fortune 30 organizations.  While the mistakes made in organizations are similar, the magnitude of the mistakes are greater in smaller organizations than in larger organizations.  Using a baseball analogy, Jack Welch commented that when small companies make mistakes, it is like striking out in the third inning and the game ends.  For larger companies, if they strike out in the third inning, they get another chance to bat again in the seventh inning.

Q: Also, how does this translate to nonprofits?

A: Most of the mistakes profiled in the book apply to both for-profit and not-for-profit companies. The problem with NFPs is that there is no common goal (e.g., profit) so organizational politics are amplified. 

Q: What is the best way to approach a leader that leads with Drama Management? 

A: Collect data to convince them that a problem exists.  Using a 360 evaluation methodology may be helpful. 

Q: During the clearly well-disciplined course of your research for this book, what findings surprised you the most?

A: The inability of presumably successful leaders to talk about their own mistakes.  We actually had CEOS call back the day after an interview to say they did not want to be associated with the project anymore, stating it was too risky a topic. 

Q: If people in general are not willing to admit failure, how do we change the culture?  Is this something that needs to start in our school system?

A: Cultural shifts are difficult. Sometimes it may take a generation to fully integrate a cultural change. However, leaders can expedite change by changing incentive compensation programs. 

Q: How do you think leaders can learn from the economic crisis in Greece?

A: Inertia creates a downward spiral. A lot of different factors lead to the economic crisis, ranging from difficult investment decisions to possible corruption. As the downward spiral began, inertia made it difficult to make the necessary changes.  However, leaders from other countries can learn from the mistakes in Greece without having to make the same mistakes themselves.

Q: How can you set up business experiments to fail quickly and cheaply?

A: Have a good set of performance metrics in place, timelines established and a solid understanding of the resources needed for the project.  Additionally, consider developing an exit strategy before the project begins.

Q: You obviously have not been able to follow your own book. A Cubs fan who has waited 106 years to win a World Series has obviously has not learned to become a Cardinal fan.

A: Well played. However being a Cubs fan is about having the faith. Let's face it, next year is our year.  The Cubbies will win the World Series.  You heard it here first J