The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni
5 hours reading time
by Chaplain Greg Slate
In this book, Lencioni uses a method of presentation that actually reads more like a novel. He presents the fictional story of a Silicon Valley tech start up that began with great traction, growing quickly under the leadership of the founder. However, in just a few short years, the Board of Directors asks him to step down into a lesser leadership role because the company had lost momentum and was now a place in which the senior leadership was not working together on shared goals and while the company was beginning to lose market share to competitors.
The Chairman of the Board brings in a new leader that at first glance, does not seem to fit the role. She is a seasoned executive leader, but in an industry that is very different from the tech industry the company was operating in. She was also significantly older than a typical tech executive. For these superficial reasons, the existing executive team looked at her with great skepticism.
What was helpful to me in this book is that the author uses the narrative of the story to illustrate the various unhealthy operating methods of those in leadership. One example is that each executive had grown to only protect their individual areas of responsibility with little concern for how their process might mesh with the other areas of the company.
In the story, the leader, Kathryn, immediately implements several new processes designed to highlight the dysfunctional aspects of the current leadership model. Her method also included the expectation that some, or all of the current executives may not remain with the company. While this created some anxiety for her, she knew what needed to be done and did not shy away from leading them where she knew they needed to go. That place would be one in which each department would work in concert with the others so that they may pull together in a common effort to enhance to company position in the marketplace, rather than working on their own smaller goals that may be helpful only the leader personally, or to the department.
The story shows clearly that leading an organization into this type of culture change is particularly challenging and can leave the leader with some scars to show for the effort. One thing that I appreciated is that the principles shared by the author are applicable in any number of settings, not just a business environment.
As flawed creatures, all of us are capable of losing sight of the common goal and becoming focused on protecting our own smaller area of responsibility. I am encouraged that despite our sometimes limited viewpoint, the right leadership can model a healthy way forward that can set the tone for a more selfless way of operating so that all can feel a part of the success of the organization and appreciate the benefits, both emotionally and professionally.