What Patrick Lencioni Taught Me about Leading Others for the Right Reasons

I recently had the chance to sit down and speak with bestselling author, Patrick Lencioni for my leadership podcast (listen here). Pat is a gifted consultant, speaker, and writer. His long list of bestselling books includes The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Ideal Team Player, The Five Temptations of a CEO, and, most recently, The Motive. Nearly everything he writes follows a familiar and effective formula of a leadership fable partnered with an enduring leadership lesson.

In our conversation, Pat and I explored why many leaders abdicate some of their most important responsibilities. He explained that it often comes down to the motive behind why one chooses to lead in the first place. While some people are what Pat calls Responsibility-Centered, far too many leaders approach leadership from a Reward-Centered perspective. Leaders in the latter category are motivated by what they get as a leader. They look at a leadership role as a sign that they finally made it. Now, they get to set the rules, do what they want, and reap the benefits.

On the other hand, a responsibility-centered leader sees leadership as a, “huge and overwhelming responsibility.” Leaders who approach leadership with this underlying motive know that they have to be “willing to do the hardest job first.”. And, what are some of those hard things? They include developing other leaders, holding people accountable, having difficult conversations, communicating constantly, and running great meetings. Doing each of these well takes time, energy, and commitment. You can’t fake them and, as Pat says, you can’t and shouldn’t abdicate them.

Regardless of the leadership role that you fill, or the one you aspire to fill, I invite you to invest time to explore why you are choosing to lead others. Consider what your motive is and assess your willingness to tackle the ‘hard things’. If, after honest soul searching, you decide that you are embracing leadership for the wrong motives, consider striking the right balance or choosing not to lead others at all. Conversely, if you are approaching your role from a responsibility-centered mindset, go all in and enjoy the journey. Leading others can be the most rewarding and challenging thing you will ever do.

You can listen to my conversation with Pat Lencioni here. Yes, it’s Patrick and Pat on leadership!

photo by Brendan Church