Five Temptations of a CEO

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Your success as a leader can come down to practicing a few vital behaviors.

"All chief executive who fail – and most of them do at one time or another –  make the same basic mistakes; they succumb to one (or more!) of the five temptations" ~ Patrick Lencioni in the Five Temptations of a CEO.

Temptation One - Protecting Your Career

I grew up in the church, and realized quite quickly that pastoring gave you a “status” and a following. Being a pastor kind of put you and your family into a glass bowl and I saw how my pastors were treated, both good and bad. When I became a pastor, I thought I was prepared for the “status” that comes with the job, but I don’t know if anyone can fully be prepared for what that means, both the positive sides of that and the negative ones.

One of the things I had to learn was how to discern between followers and just fans. The biggest difference I see between followers and fans are that fans “say they support you” and followers “show their support in their actions.” It took me a while as a leader to discern between followers and fans, and to be honest I still get it wrong sometimes, because it is in my nature as a pastor to think the best of everyone. I have learned, and I hope this doesn’t sound cynical, because it is not, but I have learned to not be too moved by compliments and praise and to pay more attention to the actions of those around me.

Patrick Lencioni, in the book The Five Temptations of a CEO, says that great CEOs should be overwhelmed with the need to achieve something. That it is achievement, not ego that drives them.

Temptation Two - Wanting to be Popular with Your Direct Reports Instead of Holding Them Accountable

Lencioni says the best approach in this area is to go for respect rather than affection. He says CEOs must view their employees as “key employees” who must deliver.

It can be difficult to keep just the right distance between yourself with your direct reports as both their boss and their Pastor. To be honest, this is the temptation I struggle with the most. This is my weakness. I love people and I want people to love me. Holding people truly accountable for their results is an area that I continually struggle with. I remember when I first began coaching sports, I was an assistant coach first, and the head coach had to pull me aside to reprimand me for hanging out with the players too much as their friends and said that they wouldn’t respect me as a coach if I got too close. I think I was 18 or 19 at the time. So, this has always been a struggle for me. How do I keep the right distance? I don’t know if I have truly figured that out yet, to be honest. I’m still working on that one.

Temptation Three - Ensuring Your Decisions are Correct

It's the temptation to choose “certainty” over clarity, to "fear being wrong so much that they wait until they are absolutely certain about something before they make a decision." 

When information isn’t certain; Lencioni says go for clarity in what you do know.  I don’t wrestle too much with fear in my decision making process. I think I struggle more with the fear of inaction or stalled progress, so I will make a decision just to keep things moving. I live by a creed that it’s easier to steer a moving car than a parked one. Basically; I make a decision and if it’s the wrong one, then I change it as I’m going.

When it comes to a team, I have found a major benefit in including others around me in the decision making process. When we decide together, we will all be bought in to make it work. This is huge when it comes to leadership. The downside to that, is that it sometimes stalls out the process and lends itself to the previous temptation of trying to make everyone happy. When you include others, it is very rare that everyone will agree. So, it comes to a point when you will have to make a decision that will go directly against someone else’s advise — that’s when I will stall out or take too long to make the decision.

I do my best to make sure everybody knows as much information as I can possible share with them without compromising the organization or other members in the organization. High communication is vital to an organizations health.  But, sometimes it is just not possible to share everything. So, when those times happen I do my best to make sure that those who need to know, know. And for the rest, I will share what I can to give them a heads up that something is coming so to avoid surprises that might side swipe them.

Another stall point for people is when it comes to making decisions with limited information. I have found that if you are waiting to make the decision until you have ALL of the information, it is probably too late and you missed the window of opportunity. 

I remember when Joy-Lynn and I were first married and we made the decision to move to Canmore to help with a brand new church plant. I had to find a job in Canmore as the church was far too small to support a salary. The only job I could find was a part time job that only paid $8 an hour. I was supposed to move my new wife into a town where rent was some of the most expensive in Canada on a part time, low paying job. But, we both felt that we needed to make the call, so we did it. And, in my first shift on the the job, a day after we moved into town, I was offered the assistant manager’s position because the previous one had just quit. I never did work a part time shift and I was given an immediate raise.  If I had waited, I probably would have missed the opportunity for the manager's position.

[bctt tweet="You can't move forward in the face of uncertainty if you aren't willing to make mistakes." username="kellystickel"]

One of my most recent decisions that hasn’t come to fruition but I made without having all the information, was when I decided to announce to our congregation in December that we would hold Easter Sunday service in the Enmax. The Enmax is our local hockey arena and holds thousands and would have allowed us to do one service, in one location in Lethbridge. At the time, the Enmax was favourable to the idea but we hadn’t signed a contract yet. So, I announced it. Then, the local hockey team, the Hurricanes, went on a great playoff run and we were unable to get the venue for Easter. 

Did that cause any diverse consequences, or did I lose any ground with your team or congregation over it? Yes, I probably did. Leadership equity is difficult to earn and easy to lose. I spent some equity there and I know that my next big idea will probably not be fully trusted because I didn’t deliver on the last one. So, I will need to get some wins under my belt in order to earn that equity back.

Temptation Four - Desire for Harmony

The choice is “harmony vs productive conflict”. It is really is a fine balance. I don’t mind conflict and I appreciate differing opinions, but often that conflict leads to frustration or personal attacks among the team and that just can’t be tolerated. I think a key that I have learned in this area, is an idea my friend and mentor Leon Fontaine taught me. He calls it “pulling threads”. This refers to the phenomena of having a loose thread on a sweater. Sometimes you pull it and it’s just a lose thread, other times you pull it and it unravels the whole sweater. He used this analogy to talk about investigating areas in the organization where you, as the leader, are sensing tension or that something is just not right. So, when that happens, go pull the thread. Ask questions, investigate, inspect. I’ve practiced this for years and it has saved me a number of times and has allowed us to resolve little conflicts before they became big ones.

Temptation Five - Vulnerability

The 5th Temptation concerns “vulnerability”.  Leaders have to encourage their followers to challenge their ideas.  That means trusting them with your ego and even your reputation. 

There have been times when people have challenged one of my ideas and it turns out they were right. It happens a lot, actually. Especially in our creative meetings. It happens so fluently with our team that I think we talk through ideas until we all come to a consensus and it feels like it was all of our own original ideas because we were all part of the process. The best way to make decisions is to check your ego at the door, so much so, that you don’t own an idea and take it as a personal assault if that idea isn’t taken. It is so key in every organization. 

The Five Temptations of a CEO
  1.  Protecting your career
  2.  Wanting to be popular
  3.  Waiting until your decisions are correct
  4.  Desire for Harmony
  5. Not being vulnerable

Of the five temptations, which do I find most destructive to leadership and to startup organizations and churches? Well, in start-ups I’d say number 1. If you are more worried about your own reputation and position you will not build the team around you that is necessary to get your church or organization off the ground. You must build into others and elevate others or your organization will stay very small or fail.

[bctt tweet="One is too small a number to achieve greatness. ~@JohnCMaxwell" username="kellystickel"]

It is so important to guard against the enticement of these 5 Temptations in Church leadership today because like John Maxwell says, “one is too small a number to achieve greatness.” And all of these temptations have to do with building and working with a team. In order for us to impact the world we need to build dynamic teams. That’s why Jesus designed the church, to be a team that brings Him to the world. If we do this right the church effectively becomes the hope of the world effectively on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.