Book Review: The Motive by Patrick Lencioni

by | Jun 24, 2020 | Announcements

Are you the CEO or E.D. of your nonprofit—or even a middle manager? Do you think you are serving in a leadership role because of your mission—for the benefit of your organization—or for your own benefit? Patrick Lencioni says the answer may surprise you.Book Review: The Motive by Patrick Lencioni

I would venture to guess that most nonprofit leaders would say they serve because of their passion for the mission and for the health of their organization. The Motive helps leaders understand the importance of why they are leading in the first place.

As with all of Lencioni’s books, he starts with a page-turner story and then clarifies the lessons from the story. In The Motive, Lencioni uses unexpected  plot twists and crisp dialogue to take us on a journey that culminates in a resolution that is as unexpected as it is enlightening.

The book presents action steps for leaders to change their approach in five areas. In doing so, he helps leaders avoid the pitfalls that stifle their organizations and even hurt the people they are meant to serve.

He explores what he calls the two leadership motives: Reward-centered leadership which assumes that the leader is free to choose what they work on and avoid anything mundane or unpleasant; and Responsibility-centered leadership which is the belief that the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging. He then articulates the five omissions of reward-centered leaders as follows:

  1. Developing the leadership team. Many leaders try to delegate this responsibility or simply ignore it because they don’t enjoy it or see it as all that important. The leader is the only one who can take personal responsibility for, and participate actively in, the task of building his or her team.
  2. Managing subordinates. Managing individuals is about helping them set the general direction of their work, ensuring that it is aligned with and understood by their peers, and staying informed enough to identify potential obstacles and problems as early as possible. They must ensure that their subordinates one level below are managing their people too.
  3. Having difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Having difficult conversations with colleagues is usually about addressing uncomfortable behavioral issues in an organization. Many leaders try to avoid this interpersonal discomfort. Yet, when leaders dodge these situations, they jeopardize the success of the team and the organization as a whole.
  4. Running great team meetings. Meetings remain one of the most unpopular and underestimated activities in an organization. Many leaders admit they hate meetings so they simply tolerate awful meetings rather than making them as focused, relevant, and intense as they should be. This sets a negative precedent for the rest of the organization.
  5. Communicating constantly and repetitively to employees. Employees have to hear a message seven times before they believe leaders are serious about it. Unfortunately, many leaders refuse to repeat themselves. Yet, the reason a leader communicates to employees, at all levels, is to ensure that people are aligned with and have bought into what I going on and where they fit into the success of the enterprise.

Lencioni emphasizes that it is only the leader, whether of the organization or a team, which can perform these duties. Therefore, when leaders abdicate any of these responsibilities they undermine the strength of their organization by executing substandard, ineffective leadership.