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The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable [Hardcover]

By Patrick M. Lencioni (Author)
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Item description for The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni...

Absorbing, compelling, and utterly memorable, The Five Temptations of a CEO is like no other business book that's come before. Author Patrick Lencioni---noted screenplay writer and sought-after executive coach -- deftly tells the tale of a young CEO who, facing his first annual board review, knows he is failing, but doesn't know why.

"This book provides extraordinary insight into the pitfalls that leaders face when they lose sight of the true measure of success: results. This model is required reading for my staff."
---Eric Schmidt, chairman of the board and CEO, Novell

Any executive can learn how to:

  • recognize the mistakes that leaders can make
  • avoid errors before they occur
  • and much more!

Refreshingly original and utterly compelling, the story of this executive (written to be read in one sitting) will be enjoyed, remembered, and reread for years to come. It serves a timeless and potent reminder that success as a leader can come down to practicing a few simple behaviors---behaviors that are painfully difficult for each of us to master.

"Lencioni delivers a provocative message: CEOs mainly have themselves to blame when things go wrong. If you're a CEO (or any manager for that matter), do you have the courage to face the blame? Doing so could change your future-for the better."
---Dr. Jerry Porras, coauthor, Built to Last; professor, Stanford School of Business

You won't find any dry management rhetoric in this razor-sharp novelette. Apply these riveting lessons in leadership with the self-assessment at the end of the book. It will change your career!

Imagine running into the ultimate management mentor late one night on an otherwise deserted commuter train, and walking away from the strange encounter with an encapsulated guide to success in the corporate world. That's exactly what screenwriter and business coach Patrick Lencioni has done in The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable, placing his tale in an easy-reading and thought- provoking kind of self-help novel.

Designed to be read in a single sitting, this book uses the unexpected meeting between troubled high-tech honcho Andrew O'Brien and a mysterious old man named Charlie to explore a series of common traps that can unwittingly ensnare any hard-driven executive. Lencioni hones in on the five "temptations" of the workplace: desires to jealously guard career status, consistently remain popular with subordinates, unfailingly make correct decisions, constantly strive for an atmosphere of total harmony, and always appear invulnerable. A discussion of the story's events and their real-world implications follows, as Lencioni shifts from screenwriter mode to business coach to help answer some of the questions he raises. --Howard Rothman

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Jossey-Bass
Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.4" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 28, 1998
Publisher   Jossey-Bass
ISBN  0787944335  
ISBN13  9780787944339  

Availability  0 units.

More About Patrick M. Lencioni

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PATRICK M. LENCIONI is founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives and their teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to high-tech startups to universities and nonprofits. Lencioni is the author of 11 best-selling books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage.

To learn more about Patrick, and the products and services offered by his firm, The Table Group, please visit

Patrick M. Lencioni currently resides in Lafayette, in the state of California. Patrick M. Lencioni was born in 1965 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Table Group Emeryville, California Emeryville, California The Table Gr.

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable?

This fable style is very useful in management science teaching  May 6, 2008
Just gone through Patrick Lencioni's first book The 5 Temptations of a CEO. It is a remarkable book on management issues written as a fiction. Thus it is quite enjoyable reading through the story. It is also easy reading. The setting was a bit scary, where the character met strange persons in a midnight train; sort of a twilight zone story. The day after, the CEO found out that these people were all past CEOs of his companies. I wonder why he didn't recognize them in the first instance. May be these CEOs are from ancient era. The fiction did not state whether they were ghosts, or returned from another time, or just old men still enjoying their retirement. From the lesson learnt on the midnight train, the CEO changed and performed differently at the board meeting the next day. But it was too late. The story took a turn and the leading character CEO turned into the phantom advisor himself.

The theme of the story is of course the temptations. They are all on behaviour and culture which are hard to change. There is nothing about strategic decision, competitive advantage and all sort of management theories. The main thrust is that if the CEO can get over the temptations, then the rest are just routine problems.

1st temptation: Choosing status over results - We've seen much of this in the government. CEOs put their concern on their own status at the expense of actual results. The temptation to preserve one's status is strong. An CEO will not like any damage to be done to his status. They choose the easy way out, deliver less, maintain status quo because less results won't hurt in government but mistakes will. To beat the temptation, one needs moral, ethic and real pride in his work achievement. Status will come this way.

2nd temptation: Choosing popularity over accountability - Everyone like to be popular with others. It is also in the Chinese culture, in particular when the subordinate is older, respectable and is an unchallenged expert in his field. Temptation to be popular kept the CEO from telling his staff the real problem and work expectation although dissatisfaction grew, in order not to hurt his feeling and be in confrontation. The staff did not realize the need to improve and was not given the accountability of his work. The irony is that the CEO would not hesitate to fire the subordinate when it got out of hand and inflicted permanent damage to other's career because the subordinate was gone for good and there was not more confrontation, while the timely honest advice did. Just look at our performance appraisals and you will know how hard to avoid this temptation.

3rd temptation: Choosing certainty over clarity - We learn about rational decision making. Right decisions are based on sufficient information, evaluation of alternatives, and the choice of the most advantageous, or least damaging action. In reality, certainty is unreachable. The maximizer will use up all his time choosing. The temptation to be certain in making the right decision is hard to beat, but it will be lead to no decision, wait-and-see decision, muddy decision or unclear decision. The CEO learned that any decision is better than no decision. Wrong decision is not that bad if it can get the organization working, and clarity in the decision enables early correction of any undesirable results. All roads are not straight.

4th temptation: Choosing harmony over positive conflict - Harmony is the ultimate goal in human spirit. It is also the essence of Zen and many religions. Any kind human being will try to maintain harmony around him. The CEO did not regard creating harmony a temptation. He maintained harmony in his organization, during meetings and at work. The phantom advisor reminded the good effect of productive ideological conflict, that hidden issues could only be revealed in conflict, and truth would come out of debate, and keep the organization lively. On the other hand, pure harmony could stifle creativity and hide grievances.

5th temptation: Choosing invulnerability over trust - It is natural survival instinct that one does not want to be weak, wrong or hurt. It is a great temptation that one should feel invulnerable, and in the process creating suspicion and defense. The CEO learned that in order to fight this temptation, he should know how to admit that he was wrong and trust his subordinates in challenging his ideas. Only then the mistake committed by the organization has a chance to be put right.

Lencioni showed that the sequential impact of the principles of the 5 temptations are in reverse order, starting from the 5th. Instilling trust gives executives the confidence to have productive conflict. Fostering conflict gives executive confidence to create clarity. Clarity gives executives the confidence to hold people accountable. Accountability gives executives confidence in expected results. And results are a CEO's ultimate measure of long-term success.
Book Review 1  May 3, 2008
This book is an easy read. It is very clear, written through a story and presents the concepts easily.
Results Zealot!  Jan 21, 2008
Patrick Lencioni is a results zealot. He says that "being the chief executive of an organization is one of the most difficult challenges a person can face in a career. But it is not a complicated one." Use this book (and the worksheet from his website) at a future staff meeting to shed light on the functions of leadership.

It's been 10 years since I first read this book. After reading it again this month, I've moved this 134-page gem onto my "read-once-a-year" short list. It's that good and that important. Patrick Lencioni's best-selling leadership fable showcases the five temptations of a CEO. While the book touches on many of what I call the "20 management buckets," it's really all about the Results Bucket.

Lencioni delivers deadly serious solutions to the five temptations of CEOs. All leaders and managers must: 1) Choose results over status; 2) Choose accountability over popularity; 3) Choose clarity over certainty; 4) Choose conflict over harmony; and 5) Choose trust over invulnerability.

Discussing the second temptation, he writes, "Work for the long-term respect of your direct reports, not for their affection. Don't view them as a support group, but as key employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is to produce predictable results. And remember, your people aren't going to like you anyway if they ultimately fail."

Note: Lencioni encourages teams to passionately "air their ideological differences" at meetings. He writes, "Tumultuous meetings are often signs of progress. Tame ones are often signs of leaving important issues off the table." Here's a good question to ask at your shop: Does our team culture encourage productive conflict or are we pushovers for harmful harmony?

Temptations  Nov 9, 2007
This book could have been about 1/3rd its size & accomplished the same thing. It literally is a fable; the guy meets a mystical man on a train who gives him the wisdom of ancient CEOs past, then wakes up to discover ('gasp!') its all been a dream. Giant waste of time. You can read the summarizing chapter at the end and not miss a thing.
Five Behaviors of Effective CEOs  Jul 13, 2007

This is one in a series of "leadership fables" in which Patrick Lencioni shares his thoughts about the contemporary business world. His characters are fictitious human beings rather than anthropomorphic animals, such as a tortoise that wins a race against a hare or pigs that lead a revolution to overthrow a tyrant and seize control of his farm.

In his Introduction to this book, Lencioni observes that all chief executives who fail -- and most of them do at one time or another - make the same basic mistake: "Essentially what they are doing is putting the success of their organizations in jeopardy because they are unwilling to face - and overcome - the five temptations of a CEO." Briefly, here's the fictitious situation. Lencioni introduces Andrew O'Brien who is about to complete his first year as CEO of Trinity Systems, a position to which he was promoted after four years with the company. He is about to participate in the first board meeting in which he will be held accountable for the results of an entire fiscal year. "Those results, as he had grown accustomed to saying, were `unspectacular at best.'" He dreads the meeting. Almost immediately, it becomes obvious that Andrew's career is in serious jeopardy...and he knows it as he leaves the office shortly after midnight and takes a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter train to return home.

What then happens allows Lencioni to dramatize for C-suite executives - and especially for CEOs - the importance of recognizing and then resisting the aforementioned temptations. Once aboard the train, Andrew meets and engages in a conversation with Charlie that continues when they are joined by the Bald Man, the Stylish Man, and the Tall Man. As a result of this extended conversation, Andrew has the business equivalent of a religious epiphany: he realizes why his leadership as CEO has been, until now, "unspectacular at best" and also realizes what needs to be accomplished during the board meeting the next morning.

Lencioni adds a nice dramatic touch when there is a brief encounter in the hallway after the board meeting. Andrew sees a maintenance man hanging a photograph, "wearing the same color shirt that Charlie wore the night before... Turning toward the end of the hallway, Andrew saw the old man turn the corner. He yelled `Sir?! Charlie?' The old man did not answer or reappear. Andrew sprinted to the end of the hall, turned the corner, and saw no one." The significance of this moment is best revealed within the narrative, as are the circumstances at Trinity Systems three years later, examined in the final chapter.

At least 8-10 years ago, Lencioni apparently made a conscious decision to address especially important business issues by creating a human context for each rather than merely offering answers to questions or prescribing solutions to problems. To me, this is one of the greatest benefits of a business narrative, in this instance of a leadership fable: Creating a series of real-world situations (albeit portrayed fictitiously) that readers can identify with emotionally as well as rationally. He is a brilliant business thinker but he also possesses the skills of a master raconteur as he introduces a cast of characters, develops conflicts between and among them, and then allows "rising action" to build to a climax that is also best revealed within the narrative. Unexpected plot developments engage the reader even more.

As is Lencioni's custom in each of the other volumes in the series of "leadership fables," he concludes with a section -- "The Model: A Summary of Why Executives Fail" (Pages 111-130) -- whose value-added benefits will help his reader to make effective application of the lessons learned from Andrew's experiences as he struggles with various temptations as well as with the consequences of his decisions...and non-decisions. The questions posed in the self-assessment section are especially well devised. Easy to ask, of course, but difficult to answer.

Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Patrick Lencioni's other "leadership fables" (especially The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive) as well as Ram Charan's Know-How, Adrian Slywotsky's The Upside, Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Bill George's Authentic Leadership and his more recently published True North, James O'Toole's Creating the Good Life, and Michael Maccoby's Narcissistic Leaders.

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