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5.0 out of 5 stars Obviously, not all obsessions are productive and beneficial
This is one in a series of "leadership fables" in which Patrick Lencioni shares his thoughts about the contemporary business world. His characters are fictitious human beings rather than anthropomorphic animals, such as a tortoise that wins a race against a hare or pigs that lead a revolution to overthrow a tyrant and seize control of his farm.

In this...
Published on Jan. 21 2008 by Amazon Customer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging the head at a heart level...
A simple yet intriguing story that had me hooked from the beginning. As I read with eagerness and anticipation the plights of Rich O'Conner and Vince Green I awaited to discover the "Four Obsessions". Lencioni is a fabulous and effective story teller. He uses story to help the reader experience the emotions of the scenario. This is powerful because all too often...
Published on Jan. 6 2003 by Ruth Varney


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging the head at a heart level..., Jan. 6 2003
By 
Ruth Varney (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
A simple yet intriguing story that had me hooked from the beginning. As I read with eagerness and anticipation the plights of Rich O'Conner and Vince Green I awaited to discover the "Four Obsessions". Lencioni is a fabulous and effective story teller. He uses story to help the reader experience the emotions of the scenario. This is powerful because all too often leadership books focus on communicating with the head in isolation. Lencioni beautifully captures both the head and heart of the reader. I felt the anguish and aspirations experienced by the two main characters, while at the same time found myself in my head, problem solving, working out what I thought the issues were.
To my dismay, the revealing of the "Four Obsessions": 1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team; 2. Create organizational clarity; 3. Over-communicate organizational clarity; 4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems, fell short of expectations. Simply yet profound, truth often falls short of our expectations because we expect deeply profound and complicated answers to issues of relational concern.
I believe this is an excellent tool to begin conversations of organizational health and wellbeing with leaders that may not be readily open to this. I would recommend it to leaders at any level of an organization who are struggling with problems and are unaware the true nature of there issue begins with relationships.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Obviously, not all obsessions are productive and beneficial, Jan. 21 2008
By 
Amazon Customer (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
This is one in a series of "leadership fables" in which Patrick Lencioni shares his thoughts about the contemporary business world. His characters are fictitious human beings rather than anthropomorphic animals, such as a tortoise that wins a race against a hare or pigs that lead a revolution to overthrow a tyrant and seize control of his farm.

In this instance, Lencioni focuses on a common business problem for or challenge to leaders: How to identify "a reasonable number of issues that will have the greatest possible impact on the success of [their] organization, and then spend most [their] time thinking about, talking about, and working on those issues." Presumably Lencioni agrees with Stephen Covey (among others) that executives tend to spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. Of course, that sets a bad example for their direct reports. Viewed another way, some obsessions are productive...others are not. Extraordinary executives know the differences between the two types.

Here's the fictitious situation. Lencioni introduces CEOs of two rival firms in the Bay Area, Vince Green (Greenwich Consulting) and Rich O'Connor (Telegraph Partners) who have quite different obsessions: Green's are best revealed within the book's narrative; Green's are directly or indirectly the result what could be described as Greenwich Consulting's organizational inferiority complex insofar as Telegraph Partners is concerned. There is an early and significant development when O'Connor - struggling to cope with the pressures of trying to balance his family and his successful but demanding business - experiences what Lencioni characterizes as an "epiphany": the recognition of four basis activities ("disciplines, really") that guide and inform his leadership of Telegraph Partners thereafter. "He never certainly suspected that [his list of what become leadership obsessions] would become the blue-print of an employee's plan to destroy the firm."

Almost immediately, it becomes obvious that a new hire, Jamie Bender, "didn't seem to share the hunger and humility of his colleagues" at Telegraph Partners and that is a key point for reasons also best revealed within Lencioni's narrative. Recognizing the mistake, O'Connor must decide how to correct it. Over time, he and his colleagues become infected by what Lencioni describes as a "virus." What then happens - and does not happen - throughout the ensuing weeks allow Lencioni to dramatize both the importance of the four "obsessions of an extraordinary executive" to which the title of his book refers and the consequences when any one of them is compromised. He is a brilliant business thinker but he also possesses the skills of a master raconteur, introducing a cast of characters, conflicts between and among them, and then allowing "rising action" build to a climax (i.e. resolution) also best revealed within the narrative.

Of special interest to me is a conversation between Bender and Green when Bender explains each of the four disciplines with which O'Connor is obsessed. This conversation occurs late in the narrative and indicates that Bender understands the four disciplines and yet is unwilling and/or unable to master and then follow them. (This strikes me as an excellent example of what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton characterize as the "Knowing-Doing Gap.") Bender's explanation seems somewhat didactic to me but, nonetheless, serves as a means by which Lencioni can summarize his key points. He adds a nice dramatic touch when O'Connor appears at Green's office and there is a brief encounter between him and Bender before he and Green meet. Although they and other executives are fictitious characters, each is credible as a human being rather than as a literary device.

As is Lencioni's custom in each of the other volumes in the series of "leadership fables," he then provides an "Organizational Health: The Model" section and supplementary material (Pages 139-180) whose value-added benefits will help his reader to make effective application of the lessons learned from the experiences shared by Rich O'Connor and his colleagues at Telegraph Partners as well as from what Vince Green finally realizes about himself and about the consequences of his own obsessions.

Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Patrick Lencioni's other "leadership fables" as well as Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Bill George's Authentic Leadership and his more recently published True North, James O'Toole's Creating the Good Life, and Michael Maccoby's Narcissistic Leaders.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read!, Feb. 29 2004
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
This is a good book for people who like parables. The fable centers around an unfocused man swamped by rivalry, envy, manipulation and betrayal. He never sees that his most threatening rival, though not as flashy as he is, has the stick-to-it commitment of a carnival pony that would continue walking the same tight circle even if someone took off its harness. To succeed, you need that kind of persistence plus a few straightforward disciplines including internal unity, clear purpose, open communication and personnel policies that reflect your values. In short, if you pick key disciplines and stick to them, you'll go far. You've heard this sweet if shallow lesson before, in the fable of the tortoise and the hare. That fable endured for centuries because it puts a simple truth in a few words using a vivid analogy. That is the kind of veracity this book is aiming for and though it may achieve a shorter reach, its wrap-up analysis and work sheets extend its practicality. We recommend its bolstering message - if not its simplistic structure - to managers who like metaphors.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read!, Jan. 29 2004
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
This is a good book for people who like parables. The fable centers around an unfocused man swamped by rivalry, envy, manipulation and betrayal. He never sees that his most threatening rival, though not as flashy as he is, has the stick-to-it commitment of a carnival pony that would continue walking the same tight circle even if someone took off its harness. To succeed, you need that kind of persistence plus a few straightforward disciplines including internal unity, clear purpose, open communication and personnel policies that reflect your values. In short, if you pick key disciplines and stick to them, you'll go far. You've heard this sweet if shallow lesson before, in the fable of the tortoise and the hare. That fable endured for centuries because it puts a simple truth in a few words using a vivid analogy. That is the kind of veracity this book is aiming for and though it may achieve a shorter reach, its wrap-up analysis and work sheets extend its practicality. We recommend its bolstering message - if not its simplistic structure - to managers who like metaphors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Sterling", April 2 2002
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This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
Patrick Lencioni has written a class A book in "Obsessions". I am a student at Cornell University and wrote a review of the book for a class in Organizational Development. As I was reading I was struck by the intuitive nature of the book and the simplicity of the disciplines, but as I read further the problems that arise in sticking to the disciplines is where the true test is. Creating an organization that is healthy requires dedication and courage. In the development of any organization these disciplines can be utilized to create an environment with clear lines of communication, established goals and direction, and autonomous workers who feel a sense of confidence in their ability to make decisions that coincide with the goals and values of the organization as a whole.
Taking rather abstract ideas and molding them into a message resulting in successful leadership is the goal of any organizational change effort. As consultants, we strive to develop the leadership, within our guidelines, to run an organization more efficiently. This book provides applicable guidelines for leaders to follow that ultimately lead to a healthier organization, the goal of any organizational change effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, insightful, Nov. 8 2001
By 
Roger E. Herman (Greensboro, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
This book is Lencioni's second leadership fable. Weaving a story around a set of principles can be an effective teaching technique, and Lencioni is skillful in the art of moral-based storytelling.
The first 136 pages of the book are consumed in telling the story of a CEO who discovered an effective way to lead his organization. The basis of the approach is a set of four disciplines, which are not revealed to the reader until the problem scenario has been established. This sequencing is valuable, since it forces the reader to come to grips with the real-life experiences of the characters of the story. The plot is intriguing.
The engaging tale holds the reader's attention strongly enough that there is minimal temptation to read ahead to see if the butler did it. The lure of the story holds your attention. The realistic scenes and dialog give an "edge" to the story; you forget you're reading a business book. It's not difficult at all to relate to each of the characters, even to the extent, perhaps, of identifying some of the characters with colleagues at work in your own organization. But there are surprises, so don't think you can second-guess this book.
The story told, the author changes hats on page 137 to slide into the role of consultant and teacher. He explains the four disciplines through a narrative style that I'd liken to a friend sitting across the table from you. But then the questions start. Lots of questions . . . and answers. This effective consulting style comes naturally: Lencioni is president of a consulting firm in the San Francisco area.
I recommend this book for CEOs, company owners, and consultants who serve them. You'll learn some interesting principles and how to convey them, but you'll also learn from the experience of reading the fable. Those who want to improve their communication of leadership concepts will benefit from the way Lencioni wove his story.
Short book, big lessons.
No, I didn't tell you the what the four disciplines are. I don't want to spoil it for you. Give into the temptation: read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An answered prayer, Oct. 23 2000
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This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
Patrick Lencioni has once again presented a concise, compelling, simple, and wise look at the role of a leader in an organization. 5 temptations of a CEO, a title I felt should have been 5 temptations of any manager, was a much needed look at the insecurities that hit once we are in charge. The trouble I had with that book, and the author deserves no blame for this, is that the individuals who truly needed it would probably not recognize their areas for improvement.
Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive answers that need. I am sure that all executives, all of us, feel extraordinary. We will pick this book up expecting a pat on the back for a job well done. Instead, this book challenges the role of the leader and presents 4 disciplines that should be at the Heart of any World Class organization. In fable format, which is far less threatening, and much more enjoyable to read, Lencioni shares the 4 simple disciplines of healthy organizations- 4.Reinforcing Clarity through Human Systems- 3.Overcommunicate Organizational Clarity- 2. Create Organizational Clarity- 1.Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team
It is impossible to read this book and not learn from the past experiences that one has as a leader. It also reminds the reader that it is at the very top that an organization derives it's health. Without leadership committed to health, the organization will never find it.
For all the leaders out there, buy this book, open your mind and read it. You may have to face some tough truths, but the individuals who work for you, will thank you for it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fable on Creating and Maintaining Organizational Clarity, Sept. 18 2000
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
Like The Five Temptations of the CEO, Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is a leadership fable. The key lessons are summarized in the end of the book along with directions for self-assessment.
Mr. Lencioni tells us, 'If everthing is important, then nothing is.' He expands on that point by saying, 'The key to managing this challenge, 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.'
What, then, are these issues? Mr. Lencioni feels that they mostly fall into making the organization smarter and healthier. He points out that most leaders focus on the 'smarter' part, and generally ignore the 'healthier' subject. He also asserts that the 'healthier' issues are more important than the 'smarter' ones. He 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.
The key obsessions are:
1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
2. Create organizational clarity
3. Over communicate organizational clarity
4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems.
The book details the key elements of each obsession. The fable contains all of the key elements in the story.
The fable is built around two competitive companies in the technology consulting business from the perspective of their CEOs. These men started their companies at around the same time after graduating from the same school. The more successful one obsesses on the four principles while the less successful one uses traditional focus areas. The tale builds when the more successful one makes a hiring mistake, and that mistake starts to undermine the organizational health of the company. In reading this book, you 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 give texture to the discussion in the summary.
I thought the book was quite successful in its focus, but whether these will be the key areas for all companies or not is less clear to me. The faster growing your business is and the greater the service component, the more relevant these lessons will be. You will have to decide for yourself whether you should focus primarily on these areas or not if you are CEO.
My own experience is that a company should develop a perspective that encompasses a mission, vision, values, direction, strategy, tactics, and stakeholder commitments that are easy for everyone to grasp, are mutually supportive and consistent, are very motivating internally and externally, are easy to understand and explain, and create competitive advantages. I agree that most companies are beset with the communications stall, which is what this book addresses well.
After you finish this book, I suggest you think about where you have a muddled understanding of what others are thinking, or they may be muddled about understanding your thinking. Then, decide how you can reduce those miscommunications in simple, effective ways.
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5.0 out of 5 stars High impact read, Dec 14 2000
By 
Mark Hammitt (Burlingame, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
This book is a very quick read that still manages to hit you between the eyes with a one-two punch of horror (oh my gosh, we do that all the time!) and hope. I don't know how he does it, but Mr. Lencioni has a knack for storytelling that makes it look he's been bugging your hallways, staff meetings and off-sites.
The good news is that he articulates a straight forward (and not touchy-feely) prescription for a better-functioning organization. Like other great business books, the points seem obvious only in retrospect... few companies, I submit, actually engage in these key practices and waste a lot of time because of their failure to do so.
The day after reading it, I went through it again, writing a (long) list of actions that we're now taking in order to become a healthy -- as opposed to merely smart -- organization. If we had adopted it earlier, I think we would have blown away our goals, improved our retention, and kept everyone a lot happier.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, July 30 2002
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This review is from: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Hardcover)
An extremely interesting fable narrating the success techniqes adopted by an extraordinary executive. A 'must read' for all open-minded company chiefs who aspire to take their team and their company to greater heights using simple but effective management principles.
The author definitely excels in the art of story telling which makes the book readable and leaves the reader with plenty of food for thought. The central character in the book, Rich O'Connor, lists his four mantras on a piece of yellow paper taped to his desk such that he is constantly reminded about observing them strictly all the time. It is these four obsessions that confirm his strong sense of commitment to his company -The Telegraph making it a cut above the competition.The message driven home is rather than being obsessed with what your competitor is doing, concentrate on what you have to do to reach and retain the Number 1 slot in your industry.
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The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni (Hardcover - Aug. 24 2000)
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