5 Temptations of a CEO or Person in Authority in any arena!!

Here again is a summary of an AMAZING read by Patrick Lencioni. This is vital information for any person who leads any number of people in any area of life. Ministry, corporate America, schools, small businesses, anything! Boy am I guilty of these 5 and 2 of them I am GUILTY as charged: I want peace, harmony and love every moment of every day…..not possible and a big “no no” in leading people, Temptation #4. I also like to be liked….Temptation #2. I am glad that through lots of pain and counseling and time I have begun to conquer #1 and #5. Enjoy and take the test!!


The Five Temptations of a CEO – summarized

By Best Selling Author, Patrick Lencioni 

Temptation 1:

Choosing status over results

·      Do you personally consider it a professional failure when your organization fails to meet its objectives?

·      Do you often wonder, what’s next? What will I do to top this in my career?

·      Would it bother you greatly if your company exceeded its objectives but you remained somewhat anonymous relative to your peers in the industry?


On a professional level, organizational success and personal–professional success are one and the same. Although it is healthy for any human being to separate his or her sense of self-esteem from success on the job, in the context of the professional success these should not be divided. Too often CEOs justify their own performance even when the organizations they lead are failing around them.

CEOs must ultimately judge their personal-professional success by the results on the bottom line. This is not to suggest that other “human” factors are not important, or even most important on a spiritual and emotional level. However, only the CEO is ultimately responsible for the results of the company, and this must be his or her final measure.

The most successful CEOs focus almost exclusively on their current jobs. A pronounced concern for the “next step “ in a person’s career is a good sign of susceptibility to Temptation #1.  Worrying about public recognition is a sign of susceptibility to this temptation also. Great CEOs will eventually get recognized but take larger personal satisfaction from achieving results.

Temptation 2:

Choosing popularity over accountability

·      Do you consider yourself to be a close friend of your direct reports?

·      Does it bother you to the point of distraction if they are unhappy with you?

·      Do you often find yourself reluctant to give negative feedback to your direct reports? Do you water down negative feedback to make it more palatable?

·      Do you often vent to them about issues in the organization? For example, do you refer to your staff as “we” and other employees as “they”?


It is wonderful for CEOs to care about direct reports as people, so long as they can separate the success of those relationships from their sense of self-esteem and personal happiness. This is difficult because most of us try to avoid major disagreements with close friends, and it is impossible not to be concerned about a deep rift with one of them.  If those close friends are your direct reports the accountability within the organization can be threatened. The slightest reluctance to hold someone accountable for their behaviors and results can cause an avalanche of negative reaction from others who perceive even the slightest hint of unfairness or favoritism.  Those CEO’s who are able to make close friendships with direct reports and still avoid a sense of favoritism often find it easy to use those reports as their personal “venting boards’.  All executives need people they can vent to about challenges they face in the organization (for example, people they are frustrated with), but CEOs must resist the desire to use direct reports for this service. It can lead to politics among the executive team, and more importantly it can undermine the team’s objective understanding of their own actions by creating an atmosphere of self-victimizing grouping. Often this manifest itself during executive staff meetings in comments such as “when will these people stop questioning us and start understanding what we are trying to do?”


Temptations 3:

Choosing certainty over clarity

·      Do you pride yourself on being intellectually precise?

·      Do you prefer to wait for more information rather than make a decision without all the facts?

·      Do you enjoy debating details with your direct reports during meetings?


Certainly intellectual precision alone is not a sign of Temptation #3. However, when it manifests itself during staff meetings in terms of unnecessary debates over minutia, it is a sign of real trouble.


It is no surprise that many CEOs take a great deal of pride in their analytical and intellectual acumen. Unable to realize that their success as an executive usually has less to do with intellectual skills than it does with personal and behavioral disciplines, they spend too much time debating the finer points of decision-making. Those debates are problematic for two reasons. First, they eat up valuable time that can be spent discussing larger issues, which often requires just a few minutes at the end of the staff meeting agenda. Second, and more important, they create a climate of excessive analysis and over intellectualization of tactical issues. If there is one person in an organization who cannot afford to be overly precise, it is the CEO.


Temptation 4:

Choosing harmony over productive conflict

·      Do you prefer your meetings to be pleasant and enjoyable?

·      Are your meetings often boring?

·      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?


Executives often bemoan the number of meetings they attend and they include staff meetings with their peers at the top of that list. They often complain about meetings taking up time that is needed for “real work”. This is a good sign that those meetings are not as difficult (that is are not as productive) as they should be.

Productive executive staff meetings should be exhausting inasmuch as they are passionate, critical discussions. Pleasant meetings-or even worse, boring ones-are indications that there is not a proper level of overt, constructive, ideological conflict taking place. But don’t be deceived. Every meeting has conflict. Some executives just sweep that conflict under the table and let employees deeper in the organization sort it out. This doesn’t happen by accident.

When executives do get into an issue, CEOs often squelch any potential for passion by making peace. This sends a message that pleasant, agreeable meetings are preferred by the CEO. After a few pleasant meetings, boredom sets in and executives start lamenting the real work that they could be doing.


Temptation 5:

Choosing invulnerability over trust

·      Do you have a hard time admitting when you’re wrong?

·      Do you fear that your direct reports want your job?

·      Do you try to keep your greatest weaknesses secret from your direct reports?


No one loves to admit being wrong, but some people hate it. Great CEOs don’t lose face in the slightest when they are wrong, because they know who they are, they know they are the CEO, and they realize that the organization’s results, not the appearance of being smart, are their ultimate measure of success. They know that the best way to get results is to put their weaknesses on the table and invite people to help them minimize those weaknesses. CEOs who understand this concept intellectually but cannot behaviorize it sometimes make the mistake of finding symbolic moments to admit mistakes and weaknesses. This only serves to reinforce the notion that the CEO is unwilling to put real weaknesses on the table. Overcoming this temptation requires a degree of fear and pain that many CEOS are unwilling to tolerate.




About Sonny Hennessy

PR, Marketing, Future Church Planter Coffee....yes please! View all posts by Sonny Hennessy

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