As aconsultant, Patrick Lencioni often sees leaders model the wrong kind of behavior. He once observed a sorry spectacle that shows what happens when a disingenuous boss sets the wrong tone.
Lencioni was brought in to help a CEO improve his. For starters, this executive needed honest feedback from his management team.
The managers completed an anonymous survey about the CEO’s leadership style. Armed with the results, the CEO convened a meeting. He began by reading aloud his greatest weakness (based on the survey) and then asked the group, “What do you think?”
Amazingly, the managers denied the CEO had that weakness. When the CEO read his second greatest weakness and asked staffers to respond, they again failed to own up to it.
One of the managers finally admitted that he agreed with one of the CEO’s weaknesses.
After a long silence, the rest of the group ganged up on him and declared that they didn’t think the CEO exhibited this weakness. In the end, they left their one honest colleague in the cross hairs to take abuse from the CEO.
Reflecting on the meeting, Lencioni realized that the CEO sent a misguided message to his team: I won’t admit my weaknesses, so you shouldn’t either.
Sure enough, those managers stopped working as a team and covered up their mistakes. The company’s performance plummeted and it was sold for far less than its previous value.
— Adapted from The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass.