“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…if it is giving, then give generously, if it is to lead, do it diligently…” (Romans 12:6,8)

A number of years ago Patrick Lencioni surpassed Ken Blanchard as the best-selling business leadership author of all time.  Shortly after this was announced – while on a trip to California to visit relatives – I discovered Patrick was my nephew’s baseball coach!  That started a habit of buying and devouring most of Patrick’s books.  Here is a summary of his best-selling, “The Five Temptations of a Leader.”

#1 – The ever-present temptation to put your career, your pursuits, your status, and even your ego on the list of priorities ahead of others and the greater cause.  Every key leader must embrace a desire to produce results versus a desire to protect one’s own status.

#2 – The subtle or not so subtle temptation of wanting to be popular with your direct reports instead of holding them accountable.  The failure to tell people clearly what you expect from them and constant reminders of these expectations is a common leadership failure.  Effective leaders work for long term respect, not short-term affection – those you work with are not your ‘support group’ . . . they are the special forces dedicated to a common cause!

#3 – The temptation to ensure that your decisions are correct . . . choosing certainty over clarity.  The fear of being wrong often causes a leader to wait until they are absolutely certain about something before they make a decision.  (I will take a well-executing company over a visionary one any day).  The link here is to the accountability issue – Leaders often don’t hold people accountable because they’re afraid – to be unpopular . . . and because they’re afraid to be wrong!  It is your job to risk being wrong.  The only real cost to you of being wrong is loss of pride.  The cost to your company of not taking the risk of being wrong is paralysis.

#4 – The seemingly nonsensical temptation to fulfill the desire for harmony . . . avoiding at all cost the fear of your group being in conflict with one another.  When I as a leader am afraid to entertain conflict – to put my ideas on the line where they might get challenged – then we don’t benefit from various opinions and ideas.  We are all poorer without productive ideological conflict.  Tumultuous meetings are often signs of progress – Tame meetings are often signs of leaving important issues off of the table.

#5 – The temptation at the root of the first four – is the temptation to shun vulnerability and to never open yourself up to being burned.  Actively encourage your people to challenge your ideas – trust them with your reputation and your ego.

We fail, not because of these, but because we are unwilling to put these on the table for others to see.  If a leaders’ behaviour is 95% healthy and the rest of the organization is just 50% sound – I will choose to focus on that crucial and leveraged 5% that makes up the remainder of the CEO’s behaviour – a willingness to do this separates leaders who succeed from those who fail.

The key is to embrace the self-examination that reveals the temptations and to keep them in the open where they can be addressed.

  • Choose trust over invulnerability
  • Choose conflict over harmony
  • Choose clarity over certainty
  • Choose accountability over popularity
  • Choose results over status

Patrick Lencioni – The Five Temptations of a Leader