Saturday, November 8, 2008

Be a leader, not a cheerleader

Just the other day a friend of mine and I were discussing the Five Temptations of a CEO and how relevant it is to so many work situations. We have watched many senior level executives stumble, maybe not fail but certainly lose credibility in the eyes of their subordinates based on these temptations.

Be a leader, not a cheerleader
Harvey Schachter, 03/11/08 at 8:06 AM EST

In his work with companies, consultant and best-selling author Patrick Lencioni says he sees five behavioural patterns that undermine leaders and cause them to fail. Those tendencies - first described in his fable The Five Temptations of A CEO 10 years ago - involve succumbing to temptation that can be poisonous to their careers

Choosing status over results

Leaders must produce results, and yet many leaders put the desire to protect the status of their careers ahead of results on their list of priorities. They have climbed the ladder, don't want to fall back, and focus on preserving their status. Ego or reputation becomes all-important, and they reward people who massage their ego, instead of those who contribute to the results. To avoid this temptation, make results the most important measure of personal success.

Choosing popularity over accountability

Leaders often fail to hold their direct reports accountable for delivering on commitments that drive results because they desire to be popular. They become friends with their reports, develop camaraderie, and balk when they must tell their people that they are not meeting expectations. Indeed, he argues CEOs conduct performance reviews for their direct reports far less diligently than managers at other levels. Instead, work for the long-term respect of your direct reports, not their affection. Don't view them as a support group, but as key employees who must deliver on commitments

Choosing certainty over clarity

Leaders often don't hold direct reports accountable because they don't make it clear what those people are accountable for doing. The leaders are seeking certainty - fearful of not making a "correct" decision - and so often postpone decisions or fail to make their people's deliverables clear. They provide vague and hesitant direction, hoping subordinates will figure out the right answers. Instead, make clarity more important than accuracy. Your people will learn more if you take decisive action than if you wait for more information. If you happen to make the wrong decision, change plans and explain why. "It is your job to risk being wrong. The cost to you of being wrong is loss of pride. The cost to the company of not risking being wrong is paralysis," he writes in Executive Excellence.

Choosing harmony over productive conflict

Leaders don't feel comfortable with the decisions they make unless their direct reports are all in harmony. That comes from a belief it is better for people to agree and get along than disagree and conflict. However, harmony may restrict productive conflict - the passionate interchange of opinions on an issue, which gets all knowledge and perspectives on the table and leads to better decisions. His advice: Encourage everyone to air their differences with passion. View tumultuous meetings as signs of progress.

Choosing invulnerability over trust

Leaders are uncomfortable displaying vulnerability with their peers. They believe that they lose credibility if their people feel too comfortable challenging their ideas. Instead, invite others to challenge your ideas. "Trust them with your reputation and your ego. They will return this trust with respect and honesty," he says.