James's Reviews > The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable

The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni
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's review
Jul 15, 11

bookshelves: business-and-leadership
Read in July, 2011

I saw Patrick Lencioni speak once and he was interesting and engaging. The fact that I give him a low rating here is not because I don't think he has something significant to say or that his presentation isn't good. Great on both counts. However this book is not addressed to someone in my context (looking toward Pastoral ministry) and to my mind demonstrates some of the problems of the Pastor as CEO model loved by some churches (At least one reviewer on Goodreads recommends this book for all church leaders).

So what are the problems? Here is Lencioni's 5 temptations of a CEO:

1. Choosing Status over Results
2. Choosing Popularity over Accountability
3. Choosing Certainty over Clarity
4. Choosing Harmony over productive Conflict
5. Choosing invulnerability over trust

These are presented in the form of a parable about a CEO facing his first annual board meeting after a year that was 'unspectacular at best.' As the CEO, Andrew, prepares for the meeting he meets a Custodian on the subway who explains these temptations which illuminate why he is failing as a CEO.
While this book fits into one of my least favorite genres (business fiction), it has some good advice for leaders that could probably apply to a variety of contexts.

So what is my problem? Why shouldn't every Christian leader read this book? Probably because they would be tempted to follow Lencioni's advice. Certainly Christian leaders should not be out to amass status (temptation 1) but they should not necessarily focus on results. Biblical fruitfulness is less about gaining market share and more butts in the seats and more about faithfulness than results. When Lencioni talks about accountability being better than popularity, what he means is that it is incumbent upon leaders to hold their 'direct reports accountable to following through on their commitments' rather than trying to be their buddy. Certainly pastors need to hold congregants and staff accountable to their commitment to Christ and his mission. But something about soul care is necessary for this to translate to a ministry context. Our ultimate commitment to people is not to make them better producers for the Kingdom, but to help them do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. The whole context of business leadership has a different telos than Church leadership. While business leaders necessarily and properly focus on success, production and results, as Church leaders such concepts are bound up with the work of the Triune God who affected our salvation in Christ and is at work bringing the Kingdom in its fullness. Our part as Christian leaders isn't to make and produce and hold people to account, but to live a life faithful to Christ which compels others to follow him.

I have less issues with Temptations 3-5. Here what Lencioni says can be applied well to Church leadership. So read it if you must, but be critical in how you apply it.



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