Temptations and Obsessions of an Executive
Mar 22, 2009

Patrick Lencioni runs a management consulting firm called the Table Group in the US and has authored several bestselling books on management skills development. “The Five Temptations of a CEO” and “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive” are the two of my favourites among them.

The Five Temptations of a CEO was first published in 1998 and was one of the first of several books that uses fable type

The Five Temptations of a CEO

The Five Temptations of a CEO

 story telling to drive home a message. Written in lucid style, the story fascinated me such that I, normally a slow reader, finished the book in just one sitting.

In the story, Andrew, the CEO of a company which is not doing well, is about to face a Board meeting the next day and is expecting a rough meeting. On the way back home at just past midnight and ready to do another few hours of preparatory work, he meets an old man on the train, who looks like just a janitor. Strangely, this janitor called Charlie sits down and talks to Andrew and grills him throughout the ride with some hard hitting questions on his company and draws out lessons to make Andrew understand the temptations he fell for as a CEO.

In the second part of the book, Patrick turns from a storyteller to an executive coach and takes the reader once again through the temptations, this time analysing the rationale and providing advice on how to overcome them.

These temptations described by Patrick are so common and natural that I could easily identify myself with them. Yes I have fallen prey to all of these temptations some time or the other. Patrick also runs a section on self assessment, as the closing chapter in the book, for you to check on yours temptation index.

What are these temptations?

When your company fails to meet its objectives and you do not consider this to be your own professional failure but on account of, say, adverse market conditions, you have perhaps fallen prey to the first temptation of “choosing status over results”.

If you consider yourself to be a close friend of your direct reports and are often reluctant to give negative feedback on their performance, you are suffering from the second temptation of “choosing popularity over accountability”. Chances are high that you are finding it difficult to hold someone accountable, because you have not set clear goals and responsibilities. This is perhaps because you are waiting for some more information to come in before you decide correctly on tasks to be done etc. This is on account of temptation number three of “choosing certainty over clarity”.

Temptation four is the “desire for harmony”. But “harmony is like cancer to good decision making”. Through productive conflict in meetings you can get the benefit of the wisdom of the entire team which helps better decision making, rather than having quiet peaceful meetings with only ‘yes-men’ around.

But why do we feel uncomfortable with conflicts, professional and productive ones? Is it because we suffer from the fifth temptation and “choose invulnerability over trust”? People who trust one another are not worried about holding back their opinions – they say what they think and know they are not going to be vulnerable if they do. When there is no trust among the leadership team members, the consequences can be quite disruptive for the organisation.

Take the self-assessment test at the end of the book and check for yourself where you stand. If you have difficulty in identifying your temptations, you may wish to ‘trust’ your direct reports to review the test for you and compare their views with yours.

In the next post, we will go through the “Four Obsessions” that an executive must have.

Email This Post Email This Post 0

You may also like

Temptations and Obsessions of an Executive – Part 2
Temptations and Obsessions of an Executive

2 Responses

  1. abhik

    This is sounding very true, not only from a CEOs pov but also holds true to every manager at various level. Infact, I would tend to ascribe these to a social behviour which applies to the way we deal with our own family and friends as well.
    Great find…shall wait for the must haves now

  2. Thank you Abhik for your observations. I agree, the principles, rather the temptations, apply at all levels and not just at the CEO level. I also read that Lencioni has written his latest book on how to apply business management principles at the home front also – havent yet read the book. But I would argue that in home and among friends, emotions do play a major role and therefore the ‘pitch’ and ‘playing conditions’ are very different and we need to be very careful to generalise and apply the principles on all fronts.
    Wednesday the 25th the next post will be out.

Leave a Reply