In the book Leadership on Trial, written with three Ivey colleagues, Gandz pinpoints the failures - systemic and individual - that created a crisis many warned about and did see coming.
Rightly, he focuses attention on those at the top who led the charge headlong into disaster. But the aim was to go beyond the neat and easy explanations that too often just put the blame on "greedy bankers" and the bonus culture. He searched for the underlying causes that can and must be fixed.
"A number of these organisations had gone down a very destructive pathway in terms of shareholder value and social [consequences]," Gandz says. "Something had gone very wrong in leadership, with some very bright people doing some very dumb things - that includes politicians, bankers, regulators and those carrying more debt than they should."
The basic hypothesis sees three fundamental sets of reasons. First is the failure of certain leaders to understand the mechanics, links and complexities of the financial system. What becomes clear is that too many senior executives lacked the skills to oversee businesses. Gandz contrasts this with the CEO of Toronto Dominion, which came through the crisis largely unscathed, whose golden rule is: Don't do anything you don't understand.
Second is a personality type and approach to leadership almost guaranteed to cause trouble. This is rooted in the win-at-all-costs, hyper-competitive cultures that make pay the marker for success. "With that comes overconfidence, hubris, denial of problems building up at the periphery, and intolerance of dissent," Gandz says.
Third is that small subsidiaries of large organisations were allowed to take risks that undermined the whole capital base, with little to no supervision. That points to significant problems of organisational design and puzzling negligence on the part of those in charge. In too many cases, there were poor reporting systems and no absolute overview of total risk.
"It is not as if people didn't know what needed to be done," Gandz says, referring to the regulatory recommendations that followed the collapse of Long Term Capital Management a decade or so