Matter & Substance
  January 16, 2016

Book Review: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

Patrick Lencioni has continued his series of leadership fables by focusing on four impactful leadership principles the successful executive should have ingrained into everything that he or she does. He focuses on the CEO of a technology consulting firm, Rich O'Connor, and shows how powerful a values based culture can be in establishing and maintaining organizational effectiveness.

Mr. Lencioni tells us that the key to managing the challenge of leading an organization, of course, is to identify a reasonable number of issues that will have the greatest possible impact on the success of your organization and then spend most of your time thinking about, talking about, and working on those issues. He states that the most important objectives are the ones that make the organization smarter and healthier. Although most leaders focus on what makes an organization smarter, the health issue is the most important. Mr. Lencioni defines a healthy organization as one that eliminates politics and confusion. You can tell if this has been accomplished by watching to see if morale rises, employee turnover drops, and productivity growth accelerates.

This story is built around two competitive companies in the technology consulting business from the perspective of their CEO's. These men basically have the same starting point- they founded their companies at around the same time after graduating from the same school. The more successful company is led by Mr. O'Connor and obsesses on the "four principles" while the less successful company uses traditional focus areas such as sales and customer satisfaction.

The story unfolds when the more successful company deviates from the core principles and makes a hiring mistake, and that mistake starts to undermine the organizational health of the company. You then get the viewpoints of the CEO who doesn't get it, the new hire who doesn't get it, and the team members who do get it. These multiple perspectives make it easier to understand the lessons, and reinforce the discussion in the summary.

I can see how these lessons apply in that the successful CEO must be the custodian of organizational health. This can be accomplished by following these core principles.

  1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
  2. Create organizational clarity
  3. Over communicate organizational clarity
  4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems