Pat Lencioni On Being The Leader You Were Built to Be

David Nour
David Nour

Stuck, frustrated, grumpy. It’s not an uncommon feeling for any late-career leader at a mid-sized or small firm (or even a big one). Most of us just accept it and “push through.”

But when Pat Lencioni, the bestselling author of business classics including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage, got that feeling a couple of years ago, he started digging in—why did he feel this way? What exactly drove that feeling? Did his work have to be like this?

The result is a new book: The Six Types of Working Genius: A Better Way to Understand Your Gifts, Your Frustrations and Your Team (Matt Holt, Sept. 2022)It’s a rich guide to making sure your organization has the right mix of passions and skills to get imaginative, high-quality work done—in a sustainable way.

Lencioni laid out an early version of Working Genius in the pages of Chief Executive not long after he’d first developed the idea. It involves taking an assessment to unearth which “Geniuses”—Wonder, Invention, Discernment, Galvanizing, Enablement, Tenacity—are yours and which are not.

Three quick takeaways: 

  1. Get over your gaps. “Tom Brady is not supposed to run out of the pocket and try to dive for a first down. And similarly, Lamar Jackson isn’t supposed to stand in the pocket. CEOs need to realize that, too. So no more guilt, no more self-judgment around what you’re not great at. Be the CEO that you were built to be….Stop trying to be like Jack Welch or whoever else you’re trying to emulate. You are not them.”
  2. Focus on building your strengths, not fixing your weaknesses. “No CEO has all the things they wish they had to be a great CEO. Many of them will choose to work on their weaknesses, and that’s not the right thing. Michael Jordan didn’t become the best basketball player ever by just working on his weaknesses, he did it by leaning into his strengths.”
  3. Build a complementary team. “So many times we take a CEO and say, ‘Well, you’re naturally good at these things, so let’s work on these other things,’ when it’s so much better to say, ‘No, let’s bring other people around you that can fill those gaps in for you.’ Self-awareness and the humility and confidence to bring other people in to do things that they’re better than you at is what makes a great CEO.”

“Your company needs you to do the things that give you joy and energy,” says Lencioni. “It really does. Organizational health comes from the top down. Because if the CEO says that, then he can look at other people in the organization and say, ‘How can we make you twice as productive and more engaged?’” And who wouldn’t want that for their team—and themselves? Read the full interview >

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