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23 April 2007

Is leadership complex or simple?

The FIVE temptations of a CEO by Patrick M Lencioni is a business fiction book in a fable format on leadership. The fable is based on character Andrew O'Brien who happens on an unlikely ( fictional?) guide in his quest for a silver bullet to success. The book, on why executives fail, is of about 134 pages out of which almost 100 pages constitute the fable and then a summary.

According to Lencioni, most executives make the same basic mistakes and the pitfalls they face are the five temptations, such as:

Temptation 1 : Once they "arrive", many focus on primarily preserving their status. This causes leaders/CEOs to make decisions that protect their ego or reputation or worst, avoid making decisions that might damage them. They reward people who contribute to their ego. Hence the writer advises to embrace a desire to produce results.

Temptation 2 : Succumbing to a desire to be popular and hence not holding direct reportees accountable. The desire to be liked & accepted by peers often of similar age and background results in decisions that may not be healthy for long term respect of reportees. The book suggests that do not view reportees as support group but as key employees who have to deliver on their commitments. The author comments, remember your people are not likely to like you anyway if they ultimately fail !

Temptation 3. Choosing accuracy over clarity-Even leaders who don't succumb to the above two pitfalls sometimes fail because they have not provided clear directions-what their direct reportees are accountable for doing.i.e. choosing certainty over clarity.

Temptation 4: Choosing harmony over productive conflict- Do you prefer your meetings to be pleasant & enjoyable? Do you get uncomfortable at meetings if your direct reports argue? Do you often make peace or try to reconcile direct reports who are at odds with one another? Then you have succumbed to this pitfall.

Temptation 5- Choosing invulnerability over trust. The author argues this is not about being touchy feely but all the above depend on having a trustworthy team. As against a complacent one.

It'd be well worth the while to examine the leadership guidelines in the book. The temptations obviously become critical in proportion to the role/influence one exerts and it is crucial to be aware, avoid and manage them.

He says that people who trust one another aren't worried about holding back their opinions or their passions. ( I guess that'd be true out of the corporate world too?)

I liked the book because of it's format. Management fables such as this some times provide an easy to read format and to give to staff, young managers or busy managers-ceo's in making- who may not have the time or enjoy reading, in-depth, intensely researched material.

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