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March 11, 1994

DRILLING DOWN

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Patrick Lencioni had no idea his book would get the traction that it has. Naturally, his publisher hoped it would. But with the volume of printed material hitting the streets every week, who would have ever guessed that The Five Temptations of the CEO would have made such a national sound? In his book Lencioni identifies five things that CEO’s all struggle with:

Temptation 1—Choosing status over results.
Temptation 2—Choosing popularity over accountability
Temptation 3—Choosing certainty over clarity.
Temptation 4—Choosing harmony over productive conflict.
Temptation 5—Choosing vulnerability over trust.

Each of these temptations carries real dangers for a leader. Think about the world of a CEO as you digest more of his thinking.
Temptation 1—Choosing status over results.

Worrying about how much public recognition one receives is a possible sign of susceptibility to the first temptation. Although human nature dictates that we hope for a just share of acknowledgement, it is a dangerous part of human nature to entertain. Certainly, at one time or another all CEOs have experienced short shrift when it comes to public recognition. Those who eventually get their recognition are the CEOs who aren’t distracted by the occasional slighting that an unscientific press is sure to give. Interestingly enough, they experience a low degree of satisfaction from such press. After all, they take larger personal satisfaction from achieving results.
Temptation 2—Choosing popularity over accountability

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 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.
Temptation 3—Choosing certainty over clarity.

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 a less to do with intellectual skills than it does with personal and behavioral discipline, they spend too much time debating the finer points of decision-making.
Temptation 4—Choosing harmony over productive conflict.

Productive executive staff meetings should be exhaustive in as much as they are passionate, critical discussions. 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.
Temptation 5—Choosing vulnerability over trust.

No one loves to be 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 why they are CEO, and they realize 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. Overcoming this temptation requires a degree of fear and pain that many CEOs are unwilling to tolerate.

Why did the book The Five Temptations of the CEO hit such a homerun in our culture? Well, folks a lot smarter and with more at stake have spent time to figure that one out. I’m not certain, but my guess is that:
1. It is a very well-written book.
2. It is immediately practical.
3. It triggers our fascination with the top of the corporate pyramid.
4. It is something that can be applied to every one of us no matter what title we carry.

The last one is the real fuel. When something touches all of us it finds front-page space. For example, 9-11, the presidential debate, a war, anthrax, and the stock market roller coaster have hit home for many of us in one way or another.

After rereading The Five Temptations of the CEO I wanted to sit down and write a book called the One Temptation of EHBA (Every Human Being Alive). It would not replace Lencioni but act as the primer to be thought about as a background. There is a disease and sickness that every human being faces on a daily basis. It is a spiritual flu of sorts. It is called pride. Ken Blanchard calls it the greatest addiction in the world today—the human ego.

Pride is the one muscle that is at full strength in kids and parents, in bosses and employees, in buyers and sellers, in rich and in poor, in all of us. It masks itself in a million different outfits but it is easy to spot and always carries the same card; it is about me.

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