On Leadership: The Five Temptations of a CEO



The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’. And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I’. They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.

~ Peter Drucker

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.

~ Jim Rohn

I recently reread The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni in preparation for a leadership presentation I was asked to give at an executive summit.  I am always impressed by Mr. Lencioni’s ability to provide simple wisdom for organizations and this book is not an exception.  I am a huge fan of Mr. Lencioni and recommend his books for your leadership library.

Going back to the basics once again, an executive’s job is to generate sustainable results.  Sustainable results are achieved by creating, delivering, communicating, and capturing value.  You know you are creating value when you achieve profitability greater than the industry average.

The following are Mr. Lencioni’s Five Temptations that a CEO must prevail against in order to achieve the expected result of profitability greater than the industry average:

  1. Choosing to focus on their status or other interests other than the expected results
  2. Choosing popularity (the need to be liked) over the willingness to hold others accountable to results
  3. Choosing certainty (the need for perfect information) over clarity (knows the way, goes the way, shows the way)
  4. Choosing harmony (the need to have everyone get along) over productive conflict (good strong ideological debate)
  5. Choosing invulnerability (the need to not show weakness) over trust (the willingness to show weakness)

To overcome these temptations you work in reverse order starting with trust.  If the employees trust they can debate with you and each other you will generate great insight and buy-in for decisions.  The insight gained from the debates will bring clarity to what should be done.  That clarity allows the leader to clearly set expectations with direct reports and hold them accountable to achieve the expected results.  When everyone understands what is expected and accepts accountability for the result, you are most likely to achieve predictable results – fulfilling your job as CEO.

This is simple in concept, but hard to do.  I encourage you to read Mr. Lencioni’s book for more insight on this and apply his principles.  Click here for more information on the The Five Temptations and other books by Mr. Lencioni.

Choose to not give in to these temptations.  Choose greatness.



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