The Motive by Patrick Lencioni

Once you pick up Patrick Lencioni’s The Motive and start reading, you won’t be able to set it down until you’ve completely read it cover to cover. Today, I did just that:  four hours later, I realized why Lencioni’s simple storytelling is so effective and anything but simplistic. It reads with the ease of a story a friend might share over lunch with a colleague and that’s exactly how the story of two CEOs unfolds. A narration of a one CEOs awakening as he looks into the mirror held up by his rival CEO during their day-long meeting, Lencioni shares valuable insight that uncovers why some leaders succeed while others fail horribly. It all comes down to their motive. During the Covid-19 crisis, Lencioni’s The Motive offers a timely message that can help us rebuild a better normal.

The story doesn’t fail to engage, as you turn page after page, you discover insightful take- aways from The Motive. In the last section of the book, Lencioni explores in detailed lessons how some leaders are motivated by ego-centric rewards that come with position and role while others embrace  leadership as the responsibility of shouldering the tedious and unpleasant tasks that come with serving others through constant coaching and support, learning the skills of delegation and addressing the essential behavioural changes to form a cohesive team.

Through these lessons, Lencioni’s deep understanding and expansive expertise of leadership best practices from over 20 years in the industry really shines through the reflections and calls to action found in the latter pages of the book. He explains how successful leaders develop their leadership team; lead by example as they manage individuals and ensure their subordinates effectively manage the people they lead; brave the difficult and uncomfortable conversations with others; empower, engage and involve their team in decision-making during effective meetings; and communicate constantly and repetitively to employees with a consistent message.

But why is this message so relevant now?

Today, we are all experiencing a cleansing of sorts during this crisis. The world experienced a slowdown if not a near shutdown and while mergers and acquisitions still took place and dividends were paid out to executives and shareholders, many businesses took a harsh beating while others were shut down temporarily and some closed their doors for good. If we can’t heed the humbling message brought to us by a tiny virus invisible to the naked eye, we will fail to grasp this opportunity to reset, reflect and renew and to work together to build a stronger and better normal.

We need to rebuild. Countries, governments, organizations, communities, families and individuals alike are all experiencing a reset and a time of reflection. The urgent need for renewal as we deliberate on the best approach to come out of this crisis means we need to recognize that our comfortable and almost careless behaviours of old somehow led us to where we are and if we persist with such behaviours going forward, if people still buy and hoard supplies and deprive others during this time of need, if businesses continue to manipulate the price of goods and services at the expense of consumers who have little to spare, if insecure, egotistical executives still feel the need to manage others from a top-down approach that serves only to appease their own selfish interests rather than the greater good of the organization, we’ll not only revert to our old sunken ways, but we’ll find ourselves dealing with a worse kind of virus, one that spreads through greed, ignorance and malice.

Today, this message is important because we need to reassess our own motive by braving the sometimes tedious and difficult responsibilities that come with shifting our own behaviour and creating a new paradigm. Each one of us needs to lead to serve others and strive to bring about a positive future for all us.

We are all leaders, whether we are in government, leading a business with a single employee, the head a multinational corporation with thousands of staff, or the head of a household, we need to set a good example for young people to help them understand what good leadership looks like. As Lencioni explains in The Motive, “if we can restore the collective attitude that leadership is meant to be a joyfully difficult and selfless responsibility, 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.”

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