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Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

The formation and use of teams are not a new practice. In Old Testament times the kings of Israel and Judah formed teams to govern their countries. In the New Testament era St. Paul clearly describes teams of members as the Body of Christ. The value of diversity in forming teams causes the team to have the potential to be more productive. Christians understand that our sinful nature is the barrier to fulfilling the potential.

Lencioni is not a theologian, but a consultant in executive team development and organizational health. He is a frequent presenter at leadership conferences. And while he is interesting and entertaining in his presentations, it is this reviewer’s opinion he is even more gifted in his writing. In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team he tells a story of a tech firm that has very capable leaders who work independently. The Board of Directors has asked the founding Chief Executive to step down and has engaged a new chief who only has the Board Chair’s support. It has the makings of a good novel, and his storytelling gifts engage the reader.

In his first book Lencioni wrote on the five temptation of the CEO, the behavioral pitfalls that plague leaders. He noted how the leaders used their learnings with their team. “Clergy, coaches, teachers, and others found that these principles applied to their worlds as much as they did in the executive suite of the multinational company. And that is how this book came to be.” He sincerely believes that teams can accomplish more than the individuals could do alone. The impediments are the dysfunctions and they can be addressed.

Both in the story and the explanation at the back of the book, he describes the five dysfunctions and how they negatively impact the team:

  1. Absence of trust

  2. Fear of conflict

  3. Lack of commitment

  4. Avoidance of accountability

  5. Inattention to results

In the same way the Body of Christ can empower and celebrate the spiritual gifts given to its members for the benefit of the Body, teams that address and resolve the five dysfunctions can empower and celebrate the uniqueness of each team member. This is true for congregational staffs and school faculties as well. The story and the characters make for quick and involving reading.

Gary Norton

July 15, 2019

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