Taxcaltecans meets Hernan Cortez. Mural created by Desiderio Hernandez Xochitiotzin 1956-2000. Palacio de Gobierno, Tlaxcala City (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Ideas for Leaders #245

Avoiding Managerial Derailment in Latin America

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Key Concept

Why do some managers ‘derail’ and how do these factors differ in various regions of the world? In the research behind this Idea, managers in Latin America and the U.S were compared to analyse managerial derailment. The Idea offers suggestions as to what Latin American organizations can do to avoid this and effectively develop their leaders to an international level.

Idea Summary

Latin America has been enjoying stable growth in recent years. In January 2013, the BBC reported that the region’s economic growth had outstripped that of Europe for the past eight years. Now, it is time for Latin American organizations to take an international approach to developing leadership capacity, say faculty from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®).

Some managers in the region have found themselves prematurely fired, demoted, or stopped from advancing below their expected levels of achievement—a phenomena called ‘managerial derailment’. Such derailment not only damages the morale of the derailed manager and their co-workers, but is also financially-costly to organizations. In order to understand the factors that cause it, Stawiski, Gentry, Santana and Dinwoodie studied 492 managers from Latin America and 500 from the U.S. The Latin America sample included managers from Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Their findings included the following:

  • The number one derailment factor for managers seemed to be being too focused on a specific role or function within the organization, with limited ability to see the broader organizational picture; in other words, they lacked the depth to manage outside of their current function.
  • In Latin America, managers were rated more negatively than their U.S counterparts; on the other hand, managers in Latin America rated themselves more positively than managers in the U.S.
  • Managers in Latin American had a larger gap between self and other ratings of derailment than the U. S. managers. This signifies a disconnect between self and others’ perceptions and seems to reveal a lack of self-awareness on the part of Latin American managers.

Business Application

Latin American organizations can avoid the potential derailment of their managers by ensuring that ‘meeting business objectives’ is a clear priority within the organization; training and development efforts should be established to support this priority. In addition, organizations must support a culture that promotes seeking and providing feedback, and emphasize its necessity for improvement.

Individual managers should boost their self-awareness in order to reduce their chances of career derailment. One way of doing so is to develop an accurate understanding of how others view their behaviours and skills, as this helps to proactively address any perceived shortcomings. Also, to extend beyond the narrow focus of their own work and gain a broader perspective, managers should seek opportunities to learn other functions; volunteer for teams outside of their current area or function; observe higher-level managers; and, talk to people who are broadly skilled to widen their own skill-sets.

By understanding the potential for derailment, say the CCL® researchers, organizations and managers will be able to identify problems and seek leader development solutions that will have the greatest impact. 

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Idea conceived

  • June 2013

Idea posted

  • October 2013

DOI number



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