The Motive

ResourcesBook Review
  • Patrick Lencioni
  • Book Review
  • Leadership

The Motive by Patrick Lencioni (2020) John Wiley and Sons; NJ. 170pp.

Patrick Lencioni is a business writer who has penned about a dozen books on leadership. A committed Catholic, Lencioni, after his experiences as a businessman, decided to help the Church better understand leadership. Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is on the must-read list of most leaders and leadership courses.

Until this book, Lencioni has concentrated on the how of leadership – how leaders can improve their leadership of teams and successfully reach their goals.

This book, The Motive, veers from this approach and, instead, investigates the why of leadership. It asks the question Why do people want to be leaders? digging into the motive behind the desire to attain the position of CEO of a business, organization or church (we call them a minister).

The Central Thesis

Lencioni argues that there are two basic motives for leadership: a reward-centred motive and a responsibility-centred motive. Lencioni clearly believes that a responsibility-centred motive is the right one for leadership and argues that a reward-centred motive will only create problems for the people and organisations being led.


As with all Lencioni books The Motive begins with a fable. It is the story of the interaction between two CEOs of rival security companies. One is new to the position and struggling to figure how to turn the company around. So he asks for some advice from the other CEO whose company is more successful. The ensuing back and forth interaction keeps the reader’s attention and there are some plot twists hard to see coming. Without giving the end away, Lencioni is amply able to demonstrate the various motivations for leadership in these two men. He is also able to show the consequences of these two different approaches.

In the last section of the book Lencioni describes both motives in more detail and, wisely, notes that we all vacillate between the two depending on any given context. He lists five things that reward-centred leaders fail to do:

  • develop the leadership team;
  • manage subordinates (and making them manage theirs);
  • have difficult conversations;
  • run great team meetings; and
  • communicate constantly and repetitively to employees.

As he unpacks each of these deficiencies he offers examples, questions for the leader to reflect upon and, a Call to Action in response. This section alone is worth the price of the book.

Why should I read it?

This is a challenging book for anyone currently in, or aspiring to, leadership. There are places where you may wince in brutal self-recognition or question your intentions as the Holy Spirit, via Lencioni, searches the deep things of your heart. This book will make you think and, hopefully, cause you to make necessary changes.

Highly Recommended for any leader.

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