Book Review: Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive


I read this book by Patrick Lencioni a few Saturdays ago. First off, terrific book. Go read it.

If you’ve never read his books, he uses a story form to get his point across — often by using real world examples and describing the events as if you’re in the room. But it’s all make-believe. His simplicity is amazing and enchanting.

Lencioni discusses his version of what is required for an absolutely marvelous executive. And it’s not brains, connections, or raw talent — though those are helpful.

No, his four are all about teamwork and building a healthy infrastructure of trust and locking arms with one another. His first obsession is:

Discipline 1: Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team.

While it’s a super simple statement with short syllabic structure, it’s packed with beauty and strength. It’s straightforward.

The keys are to know your teammates strengths and weaknesses; openly engage in constructive conflict; hold each other accountable; and commit to the group decision.

I could go on and discuss much of this. But how I’ve seen this change for me is the freedom is presents, knowing that to be our best, we need to be open and, at times, vulnerable. We must be willing to expose our warts, bruises, and inabilities.

And that’s okay. Because it’s not about judging each other, but trusting one another. By you knowing my shortcomings, it’s not your opportunity to rub it in my face, but to use your strength to accomplish our team goal. Then we can engage in that conflict, knowing we care for each other and have the best in mind for each other. The world does not work that way, but a small team can.

Since that’s the case, we can hold each other accountable and commit to the group. Effectively, an agree and commit or disagree and commit. But we’re all one family, we’re all one team. We’re all on a ship together and we don’t know if it’s going to sail into the sunset in triumph or end up like the Titanic. But whatever the case, the journey we’re on together — we’re on together. Even if it’s the Titanic, it’s too late to alter course. To do so would only further fracture the situation.

The humbling part is that this is only the first obsession. There are three others and there is a long road ahead to mastery. It will take time, but one implicit undertone of Lencioni’s was that of diligence and not quitting. It may take time to build a team — and myself — but it’s worth it. Ohhhh…it’s worth it.

I’ll end here with how he folds his conclusion:

“…there is no substitute for discipline. No amount of intellectual prowess or personal charisma an make up for an inability to identify a few simple things and stick to them over time.”

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