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Estimated Reading Time: 5 min

What I read

Book Cover

The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities

Buy it on Amazon

192 pages

Authors: Patrick M. Lencioni

Rating: 4 / 5


What is your motive to take a leadership position? Is it because it’s the next step on the organisational ladder, or is it to get the opportunity to serve? This book aims to challenge us to look at our motivations for leading. It also looks at how the two types of leaders handle 5 different responsibilities.

The book is divided into 2 distinct parts - a business fable and a practical description of the model. Most of the book is a fictional story that presents a conversation between 2 ceos on how to be a good leader. The model extracts the lessons and drive the point home.

Key Quote

Please don’t be a leader, unless you’re doing it for the right reason, and you probably aren’t!

Key Takeaways

What are the different types of leaders?

There are 2 types of leaders.

Responsibility-Centered Leader

Leadership is meant to be a joyfully difficult and selfless responsibility

Responsibility centred leaders believe that being a leader is a responsibility and serving others is the only proper motivation for leadership. They believe that it is their responsibility to do the most mundane and uncomfortable jobs. Keeping the organisation moving in the right direction is their actual job. They understand that the experience of leading is challenging and that sacrifice and suffering are inevitable.

Reward-Centered Leader

Their motto might well be “It’s good to be the king.” And few “kings” want to be managers

Reward centred leaders believe that being a leader is the reward for hard work. They are drawn by the attention, status, power and money that it brings. They think that a leader's experience should be pleasant and that they should be able to choose what they work on.

Why do reward centred leaders not make good leaders?

You are doing the things you like to do. You aren’t doing the things your company needs you to do

Reward centred leaders won't embrace the demands of leadership. They will pick and choose how they spend their time and energy based on what they will get rather than what they need to do as a leader. They will avoid the unpleasant situations and activities that leadership requires.

How the different types of leaders deal with different situations/responsibilities?

Team Development

Responsibility centred leaders actively build their team. They take part in the emotional and uncomfortable conversations that team-building always involves, even though they may not look forward to it.

Reward centred leaders don't see team development as being important. They stay involved in the technical areas but let someone else deal with the conversations.

Managing Subordinates

Leadership can never be about the leader more than the led

Responsibility centred leaders help individuals set their work's general direction and stay informed enough to identify problems as early as possible. They also coach individuals to make it more likely that they will succeed.

Reward centred leaders use trust or a persons seniority as an excuse for not managing them.

Having Difficult and Uncomfortable Conversations

Management is the act of aligning people’s actions, behaviours, and attitudes with the needs of the organisation and making sure that little problems don’t become big ones

Responsibility centred leaders confront difficult and awkward issues quickly and with clarity and resolve.

Reward centred leaders avoid difficult conversations by claiming not to have time or energy.

Running Great Team Meetings

You can’t delegate that job. It’s yours and yours alone

Responsibility centred leaders understand that the most important discussions and decisions take place in meetings.

Reward centred leaders don't realise that by accepting bad decisions, they are making bad decisions and not talking about the right thing.

Communicating Constantly and Repetitively to Employees

[The very best leaders] They see themselves as CROs—chief reminding officers

Responsibility centred leaders see it as a tool for helping others understand and internalise essential ideas. They recognise that it is an emotional and behavioural process more than a transactional and informational one. It requires repetitive and tedious work from a leader. They are more concerned about employees being uninformed than they are about being criticised for redundancy.

Reward centred leaders worry that they’re going to insult their audience by repeating a message. They fail to appreciate that the purpose of communication is not their entertainment, nor is it simply the dissemination of information.

Will I be considered a micro-manager?

The only people who call it micromanagement are employees who don’t want to be held accountable

No. The goal is not to do our people's job. Instead, we are coaching them and making sure they have a good plan. It's also a way to know about any significant issues before it's too late to do anything about them.

How to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations?

Failing to confront people quickly about small issues is a guarantee that they will become big issues

We can emulate Alan (Mulally)'s approach to holding people accountable using his technique of 'joyful accountability'. Alan liked to approach people who needed correction and cheerfully let them know that it was entirely up to them whether they changed their behaviour or attitude. He would remind them that he would still be their friend if they couldn't change, but they couldn’t continue to work at Ford or Boeing. He meant what he said and was neither passive-aggressive nor condescending when he said it.

We can reassure people that we are not questioning their intentions. Suppose they seem uncomfortable or concerned with something we have said. In that case, we should see if we can ease their concerns by explaining ourselves.

How to receive advice?

You’d be a fool if you weren’t sceptical. That’s the only way you’ll eventually buy in

Even though we might not like the idea of admitting any weakness, we should not want to lose out on advice that other people might have for us. We need to acknowledge that they might know something we don't. But if they don't, thank them for their time and be the bigger person.


What is tolerated at the top of a company is often the ceiling of what can be expected deeper within it

Responsibility centred leaders need to be careful of comparing themselves to reward centred leaders and eventually lowering their standards.

Most people we lead will not tell us the truth about our behaviour. It's important as leaders to surround ourselves with people who will be honest with us.

We should know what the most crucial part of our job is. This should not be based on a quantitative breakdown of our time but on what we do to help the business. We should also know if we enjoy the day-to-day stuff of being a leader.

Building an organisation starts by changing the behaviour of the leaders, which leads to behavioural change in the rest of the organisation.

Other Quotes

There is no such thing as communicating too much about the important stuff

If we don’t understand why we’re leading in the first place, none of it will make sense

No reasonable human being has ever left a company because management communicated too much

[The] plan was the plan, and his job was to keep his company focused on it, not to move from one flavour of the month to another

Alan Mulally


The book is exceptionally well written. Even though it is short, the leadership lesson is powerful. I think everyone who is either a leader or looking to move to a leadership position should read this book. It challenges us to look at our motivations for leading.