Thursday, 23 August 2012

The FIVE TEMPTATIONS of a CEO

During the past weeks I had the chance to read quite a few new books on Employee Engagement and Leadership! Among them I read three interesting works by Patrick Lencioni: 'The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive', 'The Three Signs of a Miserable Job' and 'The Five Temptations of a CEO'. The latter is the topic which this blog is focused on.
Throughout a Leadership Fable, Lencioni is able to deliver the message very clearly: "Being the chief executive of an organization is one of the most difficult challenges a person can face in a career. But it is not a complicated one...All chief executive who fail make the same basic mistakes; they succumb to one (or more!) of the five temptations."
 
TEMPTATION 1: The desire to protect the status and ego satisfaction in a CEO' career.
Lencioni explains that this is the most dangerous of all the temptations. In fact, CEOs should embrace a desire to produce results. The future of a company is too important to hold it hostage to the CEO's ego!
 
TEMPTATION 2: The desire to be popular and wanting to be well liked by peers and direct reports.
CEOs who cannot resist this second temptation often fail to hold their direct reports accountable for delivering on the commitments that drive results. Some CEOs do not want to deal with the prospect of upsetting one of their peers and often fail to provide constructive or negative feedback along the way. However, Lencioni's advice is to "work for the long-term respect of your direct reports, not for their affection. Don't view them as a support group but as key employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is to produce predictable results. And remember, your people aren't going to like you anyway if they ultimately fail".
 
TEMPTATION 3: The need to make "correct" decisions, to achieve certainty.
CEOs with a strong need for precision and correctness often postpone decisions and fail to make it clear what their direct reports are accountable for. They provide vague and hesitant direction and hope to figure out the right answers along the way. Here, the suggestion from the author is to "make clarity more important than accuracy. Remember that your people will learn more if you take decisive action than if you always wait for more information. And if the decisions you make in the spirit of creating clarity turn out to be wrong when more information becomesavailable, change plans and explain why".
 
TEMPTATION 4: The desire for harmony.
Some people, including CEOs, believe that it is better to agree and get along rather than disagree and conflict with one another. However, this desire for harmony can sometimes restricts the 'productive ideological conflict', the productive interchange of opinions around an issue. Without this kind of conflict, decisions can be suboptimal while the best decisions are made after all knowledge and perspective are out on the table. With that regards, Lencioni advice to "tolerate discord.Encourage direct reports to air their ideological differences and with passion. Guard against personal attacks but not to the point of stifling important interchanges of ideas. Tumultuos meetings are often signs of progress".
 
TEMPTATION 5: The desire for invulnerability.
CEOs are relatively powerful people and being vulnerable with peers and direct reports is not a comfortable prespect. CEOs often believe (mistakenly) that they lose credibility if their people feel too comfortable challenging their ideas. However, Lencioni suggests: "Actively encourage your people to challenge your ideas. Trust them with your reputation and your ego. As a CEO, this is the greatest level of trust that you can give. They will return it with respect anf honesty, and with a desire to be vulnerable among their peers." 
 
In summary, this Leadership Fable by Lencioni suggests CEOs to focus on results more than status, accountability more than popularity, clarity more than certainty, productive conflict more than harmony and trust more than invulnerability.
 
It was a pleasure reading this book that provides insight as well as practical lessons to be learnt on leadership. I hope that some of the above notes could be in some way helpful for someone. Indeed, I would also encourage to read the original book.
 
I become an affectionate reader of Patrick Lencioni's books: the next one on my list id 'Death by Meeting'. Looking forward to starting reading it!