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Winter is here with a vengeance, and the ski slopes are alive with CEOs who have nothing better to do than hone their powder skills — and think about what might have been. Many will no doubt be replaying the miscalculations and misjudgments that led to their current difficulties. Yet the curious thing is that these very errors, if made at an earlier stage of their lives and careers, might have saved them a lot of time and trouble.

Take the embattled head of a large company whose appetite for publicity proved to be so insatiable that her persona became essential to the marketing of the product. Her steely composure, so well known that her very name is still synonymous with perfection, never failed her — so much so that she apparently believed she could out-bluff the Securities and Exchange Commission. Yes, Martha Stewart had it all; and now she’s clinging by a legal-defense thread, a talented and effective CEO potentially undone by a single misstep.

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