Book: The Motive

The Goal of This Post

This post is a synthesis from the book The Motive, by Patrick Lencioni.
The book focuses on how leaders can best serve their organizations; beginning from their key motives to lead and driving through each of their core responsibilities in building healthy and thriving organizations. I hope you enjoy it!

If You Only Takeway One Thing

“The primary motive for most young people, and too many older ones, is the rewards that leadership brings with it. Things like notoriety, status, and power. But people who are motivated by these things won’t embrace the demands of leadership when they see little or no connection between doing their duties and receiving those rewards. They’ll pick and choose how they spend their time and energy based on what they are going to get, rather than what they need to give to the people they’re supposed to be leading.” – Patrick Lencioni


Some of the key ideas we’ll explore in this post:

  1. The Two Motives to Lead.
  2. The Leadership Vacuum.
  3. The 5 Areas of Ownership
  4. On Servant Leadership

1. The Two Motives to Lead. (Context)

“At the most fundamental level, there are only two motives that drive people to become a leader:

(1) To Serve Others. (Responsibility-Centered Leadership)

“First, they want to serve others, to do whatever is necessary to bring about something good for the people they lead. They understand that sacrifice and suffering are inevitable in this pursuit and that serving others is the only valid motivation for leadership… therefore, the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging.”

(2) To be Rewarded. (Reward-Centered Leadership)

“The second basic reason why people choose to be a leader. The all-too-common but invalid one, is that they want to be rewarded. They see leadership as the prize for years of hard work and are drawn by its trappings: attention, status, power, money… Therefore the experience of being a leader should be pleasant and enjoyable.”

2. The Leadership Vacuum. (Problem)

“When leaders are motivated by personal reward, they will avoid the unpleasant situations and activities that leadership requires. They will calculate the personal economics of uncomfortable and tedious responsibilities, responsibilities that only a leader can do, and try to avoid them. This inevitably leaves the people in their charge without direction, guidance, and protection, which eventually hurts those people and the organization as a whole.”

“When it comes to leading an organization, I’ve found that reward-centered leaders operate under a similar assumption: their role should be convenient and enjoyable. So they delegate, abdicate, or ignore situations that only the leader can address, leaving a painful and destructive vacuum. What makes this so problematic is that most of them don’t even understand the flawed nature of their motive for leadership.”

3. The 5 Areas of Ownership. (Action)

The following are prompts of situations and responsibilities that leaders should own and value in building their organizations:

1. Developing the Leadership Team.

  • Effective team building always involves emotional and uncomfortable conversations.
  • Embrace team-building as a practical, indispensable discipline.
  • Spend time developing your team members’ interpersonal dynamics.

2. Managing Subordinates

  • Managing individuals is about helping them set the general direction of their work.
  • Managing individuals is about ensuring their work is aligned with and understood by their peers.
  • Managing individuals is about staying informed enough to identify potential obstacles and problems early on.
  • Management is the act of aligning people’s actions, behaviors, and attitudes with the needs of the organization.

3. Having Difficult and Uncomfortable Conversations

  • As a leader, you must be able to confront difficult, awkward issues quickly and with clarity, charity and resolve.
  • Failing to confront people quickly about small issues is a guarantee that they will become big issues.
  • You need to find the courage to start entering into dangerous conversations until it becomes natural.

4. Running Great Meetings

  • Make meetings focused, relevant and as intense as necessary to be effective.
  • Meetings are the setting, the arena, the moment when the most important discussions and decisions take place.
  • Pour yourself into designing and facilitating more intense, focused meetings.

5. Communicating Constantly and Repetitively to Employees

  • Communicate to ensure that people are aligned with and have bought into what is going on and where they fit into the success of the enterprise.
  • Change your general attitude about communication.
  • See communication as a tool for helping others understand and internalize important ideas.

4. On Servant Leadership

Leadership can never be about the leader more than the led.

If we can restore the collective attitude that leadership is meant to be a joyfully difficult and selfless responsibility, I am convinced that we will see companies become more successful, employees more engaged and fulfilled, and society more optimistic and hopeful. Perhaps people will stop using the term “servant leadership” altogether, because everyone will understand that it is the only valid kind. And that is certainly worth doing.

In Summary

“These five areas; building a leadership team, managing subordinates, having difficult conversations, running effective meetings, and constantly repeating key messages to employees; are not a list of the key responsibilities of the leader of an organization. These are simply the situations and responsibilities that leaders avoid all too often when they don’t see it as their job to do the things that no one else can do.”

All content credit goes to the author. I’ve shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most useful.

Cheers ’till next time! Saludos!


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