The Five Temptations of a CEO

One of my favorite authors is Patrick Lencioni.  I find all of his books to be very easy reads and truly applicable to leaders ranging from billion dollar corporations to small business owners looking to improve their leadership skills.  Glancing at my book shelf today, I was reminded of Lencioni’s, The Five Temptations of a CEO.

The fable in this book tells the story of Andy, CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation, who runs across Charlie, an old man in a janitor suit, on a late train ride home from the office.  Charlie engages Andy in a conversation which is quite thought provoking and unveils The Five Temptations of a CEO.  The following is a summary of these temptations which Lencioni provides:

“Temptation #1: Status

Strategy for Overcoming: Focus on results

* Publicly commit to measurable results

* Evaluate your success based on these results alone

Temptation #2: Popularity

Strategy for Overcoming: Hold people accountable

* Confront direct reports immediately about behavior and performance

* Clarify expectations up front to make confronting direct reports easier

Temptation #3: Certainty

Strategy for Overcoming: Provide clarity

* Set public deadlines for making key decisions

* Practice making decisions without complete information around less risky issues

Temptation #4: Harmony

Strategy for Overcoming: Establish productive conflict

* Draw out differing opinions and perspectives from staff members

* Engage in and allow passionate discussions about key issues

Temptation #5: Invulnerability

Strategy for Overcoming: Build trust

* Acknowledge your own weaknesses and mistakes

* Allow direct reports to see your human side”

I enjoy this book for various reasons; however, the story involving “a janitor” is definitely a highlight.  You see, years ago in leading a manufacturing facility, I had one of those life changing conversations myself which involved a janitor.  Following a meeting with the leadership of the union representing that facility, I was cornered walking out of the room by one of their representatives.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Chris, you truly believe the janitors job is just as important as your job, don’t you.” To this I reply, “Absolutely!  We may have different roles on the team; however, mine is no more important than any other.”  This man’s recognition and approval of my servant leadership style was a cornerstone for me as a leader.  Also, validating this approach is that particular team’s realization of a 400% improvement in profitability within a 18 month period.

So, can you really learn something from the janitor?  When is the last time you tried?  You see, most leaders are too focused on Temptation #1:  Status that they would never dream of spending time with a janitor.

Feel like challenging me on this one?  Don’t worry, it’s not the first time.  For you Colts and Peyton Manning fans, you likely could make a case that Peyton’s role is far more important than the janitor who cleans the locker room.  Based off the results we are seeing on the field this year without Peyton, the evidence may support this thought.  However, is this really the truth, or could there be another possibility?  What if the janitor didn’t do his/her job?  Go ahead; play that one out.

So, do I really believe that that the janitor could have lead the turn around of a facility or quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts?  As one whom studies and coaches individuals and their teams in the area of leadership development, I would pose to you that this is the wrong question.  Clearly, some leaders are gifted and continually are pursuing excellence over and above others they lead.  The question is do these leaders have the humility to roll up their sleeves, clean a few toilets along the way, and acknowledge the contribution of everyone on the team.

For a more in depth review and information on Patrick Lencioni, The Table Group, and his books, click here.

Need an assessment of your team’s performance and how your personally doing on these temptations.  We have a process that will help and would love to discuss.

Have a FANTASTIC day!

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