Many past, current, and future employees of businesses look at the Owner, CEO, or President of their company and aspire to be in that position. Some dream of the power they can wield, others see what they consider the perks of the job, and still others view the role as being infused with incredible responsibility for the welfare of others.
A recent book by Patrick Lencioni, The Motive, explores the reasons senior executives pursue the role. What Mr. Lencioni uncovers is that the leader’s motivation for leading is closely tied to the effectiveness in that role. What his research uncovers after advising and consulting with hundreds of CEOs and executive teams is that there is spectrum of reasons that leaders operate under from those who feel the leadership role is a reward they have earned for previous accomplishments and hard work; to those who see the role as an invitation to do the hard things that are required to satisfy multiple audiences (employees’ livelihoods, the marketplace, investors, etc.). In fact, Lencioni comments that the former see their ascension to the corner office as a personal reward and an acknowledgement that they are now deserving of the riches only available to those who have reached the lofty heights of the top of the corporate ladder. He further identifies that, in contrast, the people at the other end of the spectrum do not view it as a reward, but rather a responsibility – even at the expense of personal suffering. Suffering being defined as having to make hard decisions that may be difficult, cast the leader in a negative light with friends, colleagues, or others.
So, What Are The Right Motives?
If one is “in it” to reap the high life and rewards, it will color every decision made and how the job is approached. Conversely, if one assumes that the role is best performed through a motivation to help others live a better life, succeed, and contribute; it will also determine how decisions are made, choices are considered, strategies chosen, etc. Lencioni comes down strongly on the side of the latter – choosing the role of being responsible for the good and welfare of others over self. His belief is that good leaders invest far more of themselves for others than they receive back in return, but recognize the benefit or value they provide and are content with that outcome because that was the expectation from the beginning.
Likening the selection to the top spot in a company (or starting your own company) to a Football draft, Lencioni shares that some players view being drafted as the goal and do not work nearly as hard as they had to warrant being drafted. They sign the large contract and then act, practice, and perform as if they have achieved their goal. Others are drafted and view that more as a beginning or midpoint in their progression. Those people view the draft as an opportunity to prove their value, provide value to the team that trusted them to perform/improve further, and enhance the team’s prospects for winning.
How To Know If You Are One Or The Other
Some traits to examine as you think about your business decision-making are:
- Do you delegate difficult decisions to subordinates or even ignore them entirely?
- Do you stop managing subordinates under the belief that they are competent, know what needs to be done, are professional, etc.?
- Rather than develop people, do you prefer to hire and fire until you find “the one” who fits your preconceived notion of how the work should be completed?
- Do you avoid meetings?
If you answer YES to the above, you are more than likely “reward-focused.” However; if you find the above scenarios to be unpleasant potentially, but still part of your role and not something you can offload to others, you are approaching the leading of your business as a responsibility-driven leader.
Lencioni advocates for a redefining or reframing of the title, CEO. He feels it should be viewed as the Chief EXECUTING Officer rather than the Chief Executive Officer. The subtle change in title changes the perspective of the leader’s mission. Further, he is not in favor of the current buzzword that in vogue, “Servant Leadership.” It is his contention that there is no other kind. If you are NOT behaving in a way that is consistent with being a servant leader, you are not a leader at all. He uses the comparison of asking someone if they love their spouse -and the common answer being , “of course.” However; when asked if they go on dates, make time to listen to the other, say they love the other person, etc. – the answer is not always affirmative. In his belief, you may SAY you love your spouse, but you do not act like it. Similarly, you may SAY you are CEO and a good leader, but you do not act like it.
A short review of more of Lencioni’s latest book can also be found in the March/April 2020 issue of Chief Executive Magazine.