The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni


Earlier this week I finished another good book from Management Guru Patrick Lencioni – The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable. In his customary style, Patrick brings out the inner conflicts of the CEO of a San Francisco based company which many struggling CEOs experience. A temptation may be understood as a personal moral failure that becomes a contagion and can have devastating ripple effects. I have already enjoyed reading Patrick’s other books – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Ideal Team PlayerDeath by MeetingThe Truth About Employee EngagementThe MotiveSilos, Politics and Turf WarsThe Advantage.

The temptations analyzed in this book are – 

  1. Choosing Status Over Results: A common temptation for many CEOs is that they become more interested in protecting their career status than making sure their company achieves results. To identify it, the CEOs need to ask themselves – would it bother you greatly if your company exceeded its objectives but you remained somewhat anonymous relative to your peers in the industry? Patrick’s advice to CEOs to overcome this temptation is – make results the most important measure of personal success or step down from the job.
  2. Choosing Popularity Over Accountability: Whether done consciously or not, many CEOs prefer to be popular with their direct reports (and let them off the hook) instead of holding them accountable. To identify it, the CEOs need to ask themselves – do you often find yourself reluctant to give negative feedback to your direct reports? Do you water down the negative feedback to make it more palatable? Patrick’s advice to CEOs to overcome this temptation is – realize people are not always going to like you as you have to make difficult decisions. Find other places for your affirmation: family, friends, outside activities.
  3. Choosing Certainty Over Clarity: Many CEOs have the temptation to ensure that their decisions are correct. In choosing certainty over clarity, some CEOs fear being wrong so much that they wait until they are absolutely certain about something before they make a decision. But if you are unwilling to make decisions with limited information, you can’t achieve clarity. To identify it, the CEOs need to ask themselves – do you pride yourself on being intellectually precise? Patrick’s advice to CEOs to overcome this temptation is – take decisive action when called for. If the decisions are wrong, when more information becomes available, admit the mistake and work on correcting it.
  4. Choosing Harmony Over Productive Conflict: The desire for harmony is natural for human beings, the fourth temptation of a CEO mentioned in this book; but harmony is like cancer to good decision making. What’s needed to make good decisions is not bad conflict, but productive ideological conflict, with passionate, heated conversations where people challenge one another without any permanent damage to their relationships. To identify it, the CEOs need to ask themselves – do you get uncomfortable at meetings if your direct reports argue? Patrick’s advice to CEOs to overcome this temptation is – allow and cultivate healthy conflict from your staff and even your board. Guard against personal attacks but do not mistake heated discussion for it.
  5. Choosing Invulnerability Over Trust: CEOs must trust their employees, even when it feels like they are putting their careers in the hands of others. But before a CEO can trust others, she has to be vulnerable. People who trust one another aren’t worried about holding back their opinions or their passions. They will return that trust with respect and honesty, and with a desire to be vulnerable among their peers. To identify it, the CEOs need to ask themselves –  do you try to keep your greatest weaknesses secret from your direct reports? Patrick’s advice to CEOs to overcome this temptation is – actively encourage your staff to challenge your ideas.

Book Review: First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham


Yesterday I finished  First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman from Gallup Organization. This is a good book that managers at different levels should read. This may turn out to be a bit heavy for entry level managers but may be not. The reason I mention it is because you have to know the conventional management rules (which entry level managers usually won’t know yet) before you try to break those. I found the book full of ideas.

The book starts with 12 characteristics of a strong workplace based on the employees answers of the following questions.

  1.  Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2.  Do I have the equipment and material I need to do my work right? 
  3.  At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4.  In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5.  Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?
  6.  Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7.  At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8.  Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my work is important?
  9.  Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10.  Do I have a best friend at work?
  11.  In the last six months, have I talked to someone about my progress?
  12.  This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

As a manager, our job is to make sure employees have a resounding yes as an answer to each of those above so that we can attract and retain top talents.

A key idea in this book is that the traditional leadership conventions underplay the role of managers. Great managers look inward, inside the company, into the individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs and motivations of each person. They then find the right way to release each person’s unique talents into great performance. By contrast, great leaders look outward. They look out of the company, into the future, and seek out alternative routes. They are visionaries, strategic thinkers, activators. The core activities of a manager and a leader are very different. If you want great managers, you must stop insisting that they be great leaders and let them concentrate on their talent, which is, managing.

Four wisdoms from great managers are extracted out as follows.

  1. Select for Talent: select the right person for the job
  2. Define the Right Outcomes: set appropriate expectations
  3. Focus on Strengths: motivate the person
  4. Find the Right Fit: develop the person

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance


Today I finished Ashlee Vance’s biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. Needless to say, it’s fascinating and thought-provoking. In this biography, the author remained true to his readers and didn’t let Elon control the content. He interviewed Musk regularly along with people close to Elon to present the reader an unbiased narrative. Reading this you understand Elon Musk does not carry the humble style of Jack Ma but rather is shaped in the highly determined and runover mold of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos.

The author starts with Elon’s unhappy childhood that shaped his innovative and ambitious character. He flourished in confidence and determination during his college years. His first startup Zip2 turned him into a dotcom, Silicon-Valley millionaire. Losing the war over control of Paypal against Peter Thiel left him with millions of dollars in hand. He moved next to the space industry eventually forming SpaceX. Then he gave us Tesla Motors electric car. He continued with SolarCity and was aiming to further transform the aerospace, automotive, and solar industries with the Hyperloop and other projects. But his success comes with a turbulent personal life. He is notorious for setting unrealistic goals, assigning incredible workloads, and verbally abusing his employees. Despite that, he is respected by employees for his sense of mission as they know it brings success. 

The Truth About Employee Engagement by Patrick Lencioni


Last week I finished reading the book (hardcover) The Truth About Employee Engagement: A Fable About Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery by Patrick Lencioni. This is another good business fable from Pat that touches a very fundamental understanding of team dynamics.

In this book the author talks about why people feel misery at job and what needs to be done to increase employee engagement. I hear employee experience as another term that HR teams use a lot which is slightly different than employee engagement. But for this book’s purpose, I took it as Pat was trying to not worry much about the definition and rather focus on the 3 root causes of job misery – lack of measurement, irrelevance and anonymity. He particularly warns us not to confuse bad jobs with miserable jobs while describing these 3 signs.

Lack of measurement (Pat invented the word Immeasurement for it) is the reason that makes an employee unsure about their own contribution to the team effort. This ends up in relying on someone else’s subjective opinion or mood and the lack of self-assessment on success or failure or level of contribution in a daily basis will eventually deteriorate the motivations for work. To overcome this, managers need to show their direct reports how to measure their contributions on their own every day.

Irrelevance is the reason why employees don’t feel if their work is making any meaningful difference to anyone else’s lives. Managers need to work with their employees to show the connection between someone’s work and the impact it makes to the customers, other employees, the industry or their own managers.

Anonymity is the reason for a miserable job when people don’t feel known for their uniqueness. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing. Managers need to take a personal interest in understanding their direct reports, so that people can bring their selves into the work and feel important to their leaders.Patrick came with general guidelines on how to improve on these areas, but the actual implementation will defer case by case or personality types, industry, geography. However, the common theme or philosophy outlined by him should apply to engage employees in their team and company.

Leading the Pack by John Maxwell and Brian Tracy


I finished the audiobook Leading the Pack: Expert Training to Build Relationships and Inspire Followers by John Maxwell and Brian Tracy yesterday. This is a compilation of several insightful lectures from both these famous leadership coaches. But I didn’t get the feel of a book as I have listened to many such lectures on youtube from both the authors already.

The 9 Types of Leadership by Beatrice Chestnut


Today I finished The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace by Beatrice Chestnut. In this book, the author talks about Enneagram and how it is relevant to leadership styles. The Enneagram is a system of nine personality types combining traditional wisdom with modern psychology – a powerful tool for understanding ourselves and the people in our lives – with three major applications: 

  • Personal and spiritual growth
  • Successful relationships at home and at work
  • Leadership development, team building and communication skills for business

This nine-pointed diagram (Ennea is Greek for nine) has apparently been used for centuries in esoteric Christian and Sufi traditions as a map of human consciousness and archetypes. The other alternatives to Enneagram model are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Big 5 and DiSC. 

I first came to know about Enneagram a decade ago when Todd Pierce joined Salesforce as an EVP and introduced it to all of us. In this book, the author talks about how he learned it from an Executive Coach while he was at Genentech and subsequently carried it to Salesforce and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. My personality style looks to be Type 3 based on a few tests I went through.

The Enneagram describes three centers of intelligence and perception: Head, Heart and Body. While every individual has all three of these centers, each of the nine personality types has a particular strength in one of them. 

  • The Intellectual Center: using the mind for language and rational thinking, ideas and images, plans and strategies. Located in the head. Type 5, 6 and 7 predominantly use this.
  • The Emotional Center: using the heart for positive and negative feelings, empathy and concern for others, romance and devotion. Located in the area of the chest and diaphragm. Type 2, 3 and 4 predominantly use this.
  • The Instinctual Center: using the body for movement, sensate awareness, gut-level knowing, personal security and social belonging. Type 1, 8 and 9 predominantly use this.

In this book, the author not only talks about these 9 personality types but also goes in detail about how each of these types has 3 different inclinations – self-preservationsocial and one-to-one. That makes the total number of Enneagram subtypes to 27. However, she doesn’t touch on the concept of wings in this book.


Enneagram Type 1 – The Perfectionist
Core Desire: To be right / to be good
Core Fear: Being wrong / being bad
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to make mistakes”
Possible wings: 9 and/or 2
Stress Number: In stress, 1’s take on the negative traits of type 4
Growth Number: In growth, 1’s take on the positive traits of type 7
Center of Intelligence: Gut / Instinctual Triad
Description: Type 1’s are honest, dedicated, self-disciplined, responsible, and ethical when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 1’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be critical, rigid, judgmental, resentful, and inflexible.


Enneagram Type 2 – The Helper
Core Desire: To be loved / to be wanted
Core Fear: Being unloved / being unwanted
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to have your own needs.”
Possible wings: 1 and/or 3
Stress Number: In stress, 2’s take on the negative traits of type 8
Growth Number: In growth, 2’s take on the positive traits of type 4
Center of Intelligence: Heart / Feeling Triad
Description: Type 2’s are selfless, warm, friendly, generous, intuitive, and giving when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 2’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be prideful, martyr-ish, insecure, possessive, flattering, and demanding.


Enneagram Type 3 – The Achiever
Core Desire: To be valuable / to be admired
Core Fear: Not being valuable / not being admired / failing
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to have your own feelings or identity”
Possible wings: 2 and/or 4
Stress Number: In stress, 3’s take on the negative traits of type 9
Growth Number: In growth, 3’s take on the positive traits of type 6
Center of Intelligence: Heart / Feeling Triad
Description: Type 3’s are confident, efficient, energetic, hard-working, and optimistic when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 3’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be inauthentic, workaholics, self-promoting, impatient, validation needy, and vain.


Enneagram Type 4 – The Individualist
Core Desire: To be authentic / to be uniquely themselves
Core Fear: Not having an identity / having no significance
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to be too much (or too little)”
Possible wings: 3 and/or 5
Stress Number: In stress, 4’s take on the negative traits of type 2
Growth Number: In growth, 4’s take on the positive traits of type 1
Center of Intelligence: Heart / Feeling Triad
Description: Type 4’s are authentic, creative, expressive, introspective, and compassionate when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 4’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be moody, stubborn, temperamental, withdrawn, and depressed.

Enneagram Type 5 – The Observer
Core Desire: To be capable / to be competent
Core Fear: Being incapable / being incompetent
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to be comfortable in the world”
Possible wings: 4 and/or 6
Stress Number: In stress, 5’s take on the negative traits of 7
Growth Number: In growth, 5’s take on the positive traits of 8
Center of Intelligence: Head / Thinking Triad
Description: Type 5’s are observant, objective, insightful, independent, and calm when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 5’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be withdrawing, arrogant, cynical, indifferent, and distant.


Enneagram Type 6 – The Loyalist
Core Desire: To be secure / to be supported
Core Fear: Being without support / being without guidance / insecurity
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to trust yourself.”
Possible wings: 5 and/or 7
Stress Number: In stress, 6’s take on the negative traits of 3
Growth Number: In growth, 6’s take on the positive traits of 9
Center of Intelligence: Head / Thinking Triad
Description: Type 6’s are loyal, witty, committed, prepared, responsible, trouble-shooters, and supportive when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 6’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be anxious, rigid, paranoid, pessimistic, and hyper-vigilant.

Enneagram Type 7 –  The Enthusiast
Core Desire: To be content / to be satisfied
Core Fear: Being deprived / being trapped in pain (typically emotional)
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to depend on anyone for anything.”
Possible wings: 6 and/or 8
Stress Number: In stress, 7’s take on the negative traits of 1
Growth Number: In growth, 7’s take on the positive traits of 5
Center of Intelligence: Head / Thinking Triad
Description: Type 7’s are adventurous, imaginative, enthusiastic, spontaneous, and positive when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 7’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be unfocused, superficial, restless, impulsive, escapist, and self-absorbed.


Enneagram Type 8 – The Challenger
Core Desire: To be independent / to protect themselves
Core Fear: Being controlled / being harmed
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to be vulnerable.”
Possible wings: 7 and/or 9
Stress Number: In stress, 8’s take on the negative traits of 5
Growth Number: In growth, 8’s take on the positive traits of 2
Center of Intelligence: Gut / Instinctual Triad
Description: Type 8’s are protective, energetic, decisive, loyal, resilient, and direct when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 8’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be insensitive, manipulative, controlling, intimidating, rebellious, and confrontational.


Enneagram Type 9 – The Peacekeeper
Core Desire: To be at peace / to be harmonious
Core Fear: separation / loss of conflict / conflict
Wounding Message: “It’s not ok to assert yourself.”
Possible wings: 8 and/or 1
Stress Number: In stress, 9’s take on the negative traits of 6
Growth Number: In growth, 9’s take on the positive traits of 3
Center of Intelligence: Gut / Instinctual Triad
Description: Type 9’s are amiable, open-minded, optimistic, nonjudgmental, supportive, and peaceful when at their best and living in healthy levels. When 9’s are in unhealthy levels, stressed, or not at their best they can be conflict-avoidant, indecisive, unassertive, passive-aggressive, stubborn, and insecure.

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni


Today I finished the first book of 2021, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni. In this book, the author introduces a model for achieving success for companies through organizational health. The following four disciplines are necessary for a healthy organization.

DISCIPLINE 1: BUILD A COHESIVE LEADERSHIP TEAM

The first and most critical step in a healthy organization is creating a cohesive leadership team that is committed to do the ongoing work of developing and maintaining a high-performing team and mastering the five behaviors outlined in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

  1. Being open and building trust
  2. Engaging in constructive ideological conflict
  3. Committing to clear decisions
  4. Holding one another accountable for behaviors and performance
  5. Focusing on collective results

DISCIPLINE 2: CREATE CLARITY

Creating clarity at the executive level is essential to building and maintaining a healthy organization. There are six simple but critical questions that need to be answered, eliminating all discrepancies among team members.

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important, right now?
  6. Who must do what?

The author detailed on the idea of a thematic goal or a rallying cry to answer the fifth question above in his book – Silos, Politics and Turf Wars.

DISCIPLINE 3: OVERCOMMUNICATE CLARITY

Once a leadership team has become cohesive and established clarity around the six critical questions, they need to communicate the answers to employees over and over again. There are specific communication strategies the leadership team can employ to ensure that messaging is consistent and absorbed by employees.

DISCIPLINE 4: REINFORCE CLARITY

For an organization to be healthy, organizational clarity (the six critical questions) must become embedded into the fabric of the organization. Systems in the following areas need to tie to the six questions: Recruiting and hiring The Ideal Team Player, managing performance, compensation and rewards, and real-time recognition.

In addition to these four steps, it is essential that a healthy organization get better at the one activity that underpins everything it does: meetings. Without making a few simple but fundamental changes to the way meetings happen, a healthy organization will struggle to maintain what it has worked hard to build. The author talks more about the four types of meetings in his book Death by Meetings.