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The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable Hardcover – September 1, 2000
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Allegories and parables have long been effective ways to impart serious bits of knowledge and wisdom without getting too pedantic, and business readers seem increasingly receptive to sensible management theory that employs this lively age-old literary technique. Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, a "leadership fable" by Patrick Lencioni, continues the trend with a solid prescription for organizational health--aiming for less politics, lower turnover, more productivity, and higher morale. Presented as a fictional tale of two technical consultants and their competing companies, the story is structured in a fashion that recalls his previous book (The Five Temptations of a CEO, whose main character and firm are even slipped into this narrative). Lencioni uses this hypothetical setting to show how his concepts might look and work in the real world. In this case, his "four disciplines at the heart of making any organization world class" are revealed and explained through the philosophy and behavior of Rich O'Connor of Telegraph Partners. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team, create organizational clarity, communicate organizational clarity, and reinforce organizational clarity through human systems. Through his tale of Telegraph and its rival Greenwich Consulting, Lencioni illustrates how these principles can be beneficially employed--and how an organization can be stymied when they're missing. The story moves quickly and is followed by a comprehensive analytical summary, which includes self-assessment tools and suggestions for putting the ideas into practice. --Howard Rothman
This fictional tale by a screenwriter and head of a consulting firm that specializes in organizational development is billed not as a novel but as a "leadership fable." Just like Lencioni's earlier The Five Temptations of a CEO (1998), this new "fable" serves as a vehicle to illustrate the author's philosophy of management. The story is short and simple, but its lesson is large. Organizations must not only be smart; they must be healthy. For one thing, healthy companies can make themselves smarter, but unhealthy organizations squander intellectual advantage through infighting and cross-purposes. To drive home his moral, Lencioni follows his story with a discussion that explicitly sets down his four "actionable steps," or disciplines, that are the hallmark of a healthy organization--build a leadership team, create organizational clarity, communicate that clarity, and then reinforce it through human systems. Lencioni offers concrete examples of steps to take to establish these disciplines and suggests ways to assess whether they have been effective. David Rouse
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As a leader of a church, I am always looking to improve my effectiveness to oversee an organization. Not all lessons from the "business world" apply perfectly, but I have found that even in the cases where there is no direct correlation, it is good to understand how those in the business world think. Beyond that, the principles that Lencioni communicates can usually be adapted to my particular context.
What drew me to this book was the emphasis on the role of the senior leader in a company. The fable involves how the CEO interacts with his management team and how, in the most successful companies, there is a dogged determination to remain committed to the "most" important things. A CEO could become involved in a number of aspects of company operations; however, he is most effective in developing his senior leadership team, bringing clarity of purpose (vision) in every decision and direction, communicating that vision/direction "ad nauseum," and reinforcing the clarity through the human systems of the organization.
Now I did not just share any new insights or upend some popular "B School" teaching; rather, I just shared what Lencioni reinforced throughout the book. A senior leader who focuses on these aspects of the organization can allow his senior leadership to carry out the task in the most effective way for their particular area of responsibility.
While there is no "new" information or "magic pill" related in this book, there is a huge opportunity for the leader to evaluate his/her own organizational health, persona leadership effectiveness, and to make adjustments accordingly.
I recommend the book highly to all leaders who are responsible for "shepherding" the vision and overseeing the direction of an organization. If you ever wanted "permission" to pull back from for the intricacies of the details and focus on what you do best...this is the book for you.
He calls them `fables'. `Leadership fables', to be precise. It's a growing genre in business publications, perhaps a sign that such writers and their editors and marketers have caught on to the power of narrative to make a point that often comes across as dry and abstract when it's treated, well, dryly and abstractly.
Lencioni is not a great story writer. He's just effective, which is probably satisfactory enough reward for this management consultant and, now, best-selling author (see The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Five Temptations of a CEO, and the hilariously betitled Death by Meeting).
His secret is to keep it simple. There's not a lot of business theory here, but years of acute observation of leaders and the businesses they lead undergird the simple plot line of two executives of Bay Area firms, one who stumbles upon simplicity and another who just stumbles. Lencioni's villains are a little too simple-minded for my tastes, his hero a bit too moral. But that's only a critique if his intention is to write great literature. It's not: he wants to help execs who become too harried for our own good and anybody else's because we allow our task to complicate our work and, inevitably, our lives.
I won't give away what the author's four obsessions are. But they're not rocket science. The author would be the first to tell you so.
Most of us need some simplicity. And a little bit of obsession. You'll find them both here.
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