…adapted from a reaction paper that I wrote a couple years ago–this post is presented in a explain then apply format.
The Five Temptations of a CEO taught me several concepts that I only had limited knowledge of. The author Patrick Lencioni begins with a statement that’s speaks of a reality. It is the idea that when an individual becomes a CEO, they will be presented with incredible difficulties. These challenges are the result of falling prey to one or more of the five temptations. These five temptations are presented to us by means of a fable. This allows us to truly absorb the meanings of the temptations so we can more easily associate with them. The five temptations are:
- Results vs. status
- Accountability vs. popularity
- Clarity vs. certainty
- Conflict vs. harmony
- Trust vs. invulnerability
Results vs. status
What does results vs. status mean? In simple terms, it’s deciding whether a leader has more dedication for results or status. Another way to say this is, am I concerned with my ego or the bigger picture? The reason why this is a pitfall is because a leader may become so absorbed by their status or ego that they will fail to consider the effects of this upon the company in which they lead. An example that is provided by the author states that once a person’s ego is first fulfilled, their energy is projected towards enjoying all the perks. Another way to envision this is to have a look at a rollercoaster. A person works diligently to get their way to the top (this is seen as the rollercoaster is rising), once it hits its peak, it suddenly drops steeply. They have earned it so now the bigger picture (organization) is less meaningful. This is incredibly dangerous for the fact that a leader may not realize this until serious damages begin to occur. At this point the leader seeks to blame others and things instead of the source of the problem—him or herself. This temptation applies to me as a leader because as long as I aim for the big picture, the benefits will come along automatically. This leads to the next temptation, accountability vs. popularity.
Real-world application: Is your company’s vision about promoting its ideals or yours?
Accountability vs. popularity
The author paints a picture of this temptation at work when Andrew ultimately fires his marketing guy after ten months of lackluster performance. In this situation, this CEO became to comfortable with his marketing guy and went along with the failing performance for many months instead of moving to rectify the situation. The CEO does make some attempts by asking about his performance to him directly but he covers himself by saying he is still learning—that he was still pretty new. Furthermore, the CEO was very strong in electrical engineering, not marketing, so he just assumed his guy would eventually get better. However, at ten months, he was cut. Now the CEO did not have to worry about accountability. I feel that perhaps the CEO was too sympathetic with his marketing guy. Yes it’s true that he relocated across the country with his family but a job is a job and it comes with responsibilities.
Real-world application: At work, are you more concerned with making friends or ensuring tasks are completed?
Clarity vs. certainty
Temptation number three deals with finding a balance between clarity and certainty. You need some clarity to hold an individual accountable. However, if you have to be absolutely certain, then you can’t possible hold that person accountable. When this is seen in everyday situations, these may be seen as a loophole in leadership abilities. The example in the book shows that the CEO is uncertain of a vision for the company. Once a company has a vision, all business that is conducted should empower that vision. By the CEO not being able to simply state his company’s vision, shows that he has succumbed to this particular temptation. The CEO is then reminded that answers are not supposed to come easy but they should come—that is regardless of the circumstances, some type of action is needed. Perhaps this CEO should of took the initiative to know and educate his marketing guy about his responsibilities instead of worrying about being seen as not friendly or not popular.
Real-world application: Do you make timely decisions?
Conflict vs. harmony
The fourth temptation is conflict vs. harmony. Some conflict fosters growth but constant harmony will be detrimental. This temptation should not be confused with accountability vs. popularity. While that one is the desire to be popular with people instead of holding them accountable, this temptation shows that one may want to foster harmony instead of conflict for fear of personal emotions. If you are desire too much harmony, you’ll lose credibility and appear “soft.” Why? It is so that a person can be popular, and be very well liked. The right thing to do is get all ideas out on the table. It doesn’t matter if they are not accepted by everyone. By being to harmonious you would have missed the opportunity to view and hear other opinions.
Real-world application: Are you trying to make everyone that you work with happy?
Trust vs. invulvernability
The final temptation is trust vs. invulnerability. In order for a relationship to be fostered, a person has to trust another. You have to take this risk before they will trust you. In your mind you know that it’s possible you could be burned but then there is that possibility that you won’t. Having trust for one another allows people to feel comfortable. In simple terms this temptation shows that someone must be willing to give another a chance. This temptation isn’t a large factor with me because I naturally hope for the best in people.
Real-world application: As a leader, do you naturally feel that people are genuinely inclined to make good decisions?
So where do we go from here? They say the best way to learn something is to teach it. Here on you should continue to develop your skills and be more apt to spot and engage issues that are occurring and rectify them on the fly as opposed to after damage is already done. That is being proactive before your are reactive. Be sure you pickup The Five Temptations of a CEO for your book collection.