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Summary: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Why does a team become dysfunctional?

Team members care more about their results than the team’s results.

Why do team members lose sight of the team’s results?

Team members don’t hold one another accountable to the team’s results.

Why aren’t team members willing to hold one another accountable?

Team members aren’t committed to the team plan, so they don’t care if a teammate doesn’t do his/her part.

Why aren’t team members committed to the plan?

Team members aren’t involved in the development the team plan because they are afraid of challenging the leader’s decisions and experiencing interpersonal conflict.

Why are team members afraid of conflict?

Team members don’t trust that the leader (or anyone on the team) will accept an opposing point of view without taking it personally and starting an ugly, political battle.

The five dysfunctions of a team: inattention to team results, lack of accountability, lack of commitment, fear of conflict, and absence of trust.

Book Summary: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - A Leadership Fable


Patrick Lencioni has written 11 books, including his bestseller identifying The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which are distrust, conflict, lack of commitment, lack of accountability and failure to focus on results. Talking with Ryan Hawk on the Learning Leader Show podcast, he applies his analytical lens to specific leadership challenges, like having to push people to excel and knowing you won’t please everyone. Lencioni says those who avoid conflict, risk and uncomfortable situations can’t become good leaders. Often citing professional sports teams, which he finds quite “dysfunctional” organizations, he calls for better attitudes about leadership. Becoming a leader isn’t a prize, he says; it’s a responsibility.


  • Creating a healthy organizational culture takes committed leaders.
  • Leadership isn’t easy, but the hard things are part of the deal.
  • Leadership is uncomfortable, especially when leaders have to push people.
  • Leaders’ actions build the culture of their organizations.
  • Stories inspire people.

How you can prevent these five dysfunctions from destroying your team’s performance:

Establish Vulnerability-Based Trust

Trust building exercise: Take turns openly acknowledging a weakness that could hurt the team and a strength that will help the team succeed. Go first, and show your team it’s ok to be vulnerable. You might say, “My technical skills aren’t strong, but I believe that my ability to find new customers and sell products will help this team succeed.”

When you and your teammates are transparent about your faults, you take down the veil of perfection and allow open and honest feedback to find its way into team discussions.

Encourage Health Conflict

Encourage healthy conflict in meetings by creating a ‘Team Engagement Charter’ that promotes candid, passionate debate. Then have your teammates sign it and bring it to every meeting. Sample ‘Team Engagement Charter’: “We will address conflict-laden issues and sort out disagreements with passionate debate. When discussing team issues, we will not withhold commentary …”

Earn Commitment

Get team members to buy-in to your decisions by allowing them to participate and feel heard during team planning sessions.

“I’ve come to understand that most people don’t really need to have their ideas adopted (a.k.a. “get their way”) in order to buy in to a decision. They just want to have their ideas heard, understood, considered, and explained within the context of the ultimate decision.” – Patrick Lencioni

Learn to disagree and commit by saying, “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but since we don’t have all the information, are you willing to gamble with me on this? Can we disagree and commit so we can move fast and get feedback?”

Foster Peer-to-Peer Accountability

Show your teammates it’s ok to hold every team member (even those of higher status) accountable, by allowing every team member to host weekly status meetings. During a weekly status meeting, the host goes around the room and asks every team member, “Did you do what you said you were going to do last week? And if not, why not?” When everyone sees a junior team member question a senior team member, a new standard of team accountability is set.

Focus on Team Results

Keep the team focused on team results (instead of individual results) by connecting personal rewards to team results. For example, team members only receive an extra day off at the end of the month if the team hits its monthly target. Team rewards remind team members that if the team doesn’t win, no one wins.

“On strong teams, no one is happy until everyone is succeeding because that’s the only way to achieve the collective results of the group.” – Patrick Lencioni


Creating a healthy organizational culture takes committed leaders.

Professional sports coaches are leaders. Of course, they have their own specific sets of issues and must create a suitable organizational culture. However, professional sports organizations are among the world’s most dysfunctional companies. The reason is that these teams often are just toys that amuse the wealthy, even though leading a major league team takes drive and commitment.

“These billionaire owners are in a lot of cases second generation owners. The children were essentially gifted the franchise. So these guys won’t hire one of the greatest leadership minds in the world to come build their culture.” (Ryan Hawk)

A lot of owners and sports general managers still think successful leadership is about technical skills. But successful leaders look at things from a different perspective. An NFL team, for example, is a business. It wants to keep its coaches and players on board and dedicated to the mission of winning. The coach wants skilled running backs and wide receivers. The owners and managers want their organization to create something like a family. Success in creating a committed organization keeps people on the team and gives it a competitive leg up over other teams.

Leadership isn’t easy, but the hard things are part of the deal.

Leaders must take their tasks seriously as a substantial responsibility. Some things they have to do are not uplifting or pleasant – and some are downright difficult. You can’t just skip the hard parts, like accountability. If you are a leader, a CEO, for instance, you’ll be required to have difficult conversations with people you work with every day. You are inevitably going to have to do things you don’t really want or like to do.

“A lot of leaders…carry around with them a preconceived notion of why they want to become a leader. And if they have that notion, it means they’re never going to be able to create a healthy organization because they’re not going to want to do what leaders must do.” (Patrick Lencioni)

For example, when you hire someone for a professional sports team, you have to consider their “emotional intelligence” and whether they would get along well and work smoothly as part of a team. Conflict marks dysfunctional teams. After all, in the NFL, for instance, individuals don’t win – teams win.

And the players who win tend to be humble peacemakers. Super Bowl–winning quarterback Tom Brady, for instance, was simply grateful to have a job in the NFL. Brady has the humility to be a great team player. He doesn’t take his natural capacities for granted.

Leadership is uncomfortable, especially when leaders have to push people.

Leaders need to ask themselves whether they have good reasons for wanting to lead, and whether they are prepared to take on the required hard work. Leadership isn’t smooth or easy going. It’s a difficult, often awkward and uncomfortable task from the beginning. As a leader, you have to tell people things that might make them upset or uneasy, without making them distrust you. You need to explain to them, for example, that an unpopular decision you’ve made is good for them and good for the company as a whole in the long run. You are also going to have to admit to mistakes on behalf of your company.

“If you’re not willing to enter the danger as a leader, it’s your organization that’s going to unravel.” (Patrick Lencioni)

In addition, effective leaders must “push” the people who work for them. Your employees might not like you for it, but pushing people is a way to respect their potential. Take teachers: In general, the tough ones are the most effective. Sometimes people want or need to be pushed beyond what they think of as their limits.

Leaders’ actions build the culture of their organizations.

Leadership demands building an appropriate organizational culture that works for the company and can be maintained over time. Cleveland, Ohio’s baseball team doesn’t have the New York Yankees’ financial resources, but it has done remarkably well. Part of the reason is that its leaders built a productive culture within the entire organization.

“Everybody wants to talk about how do you design a cultural system and what are the artifacts of it. I think what it comes down to is that the leaders have to be very intentional about the behaviors they want from people because the culture lives in the behaviors.” (Patrick Lencioni)

At Chick-fil-A, the senior leaders come and clear the plates from your place at the table. They are humble, down-to-earth and involved. The great basketball coach John Wooden was well-known for cleaning up his players’ locker rooms. Your senior people must embody whatever culture you want your company to have.

Real leaders take the time to actually live the culture they create. They provide leadership and an example. They lead from the top, but they pay attention to results straight through to the ground level.

Stories inspire people.

“Soft skills” are basically skills. And they aren’t soft. In fact, they are crucial for long-term success. The way a leader builds an effective organizational culture is grounded in caring about its people. In that context, stories are especially important.

“You don’t talk about strategy without talking about behavior. And you don’t talk about culture without talking about goals and finances. It all goes together.” (Patrick Lencioni)

If you work for an organization that tells inspiring stories about its leaders, you might well aspire to be like those leaders. Stories move people more than any leadership training class ever could. Even so, the healthiest companies are humble and candid. They don’t deny their flaws.

About the author

Patrick Lencioni is one of the founders of The Table Group and is the pioneer of the organizational health movement. He is the author of 11 books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Ryan Hawk created The Learning Leader Show podcast in 2015 as a way to explore leadership and excellence. He is also the author of Welcome to Management: How to Grow from Top Performer to Excellent Leader.


“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni is a highly insightful and engaging book that explores the fundamental challenges faced by teams and provides practical strategies for overcoming them. Through a fictional narrative, Lencioni presents a compelling story that captures the essence of team dynamics and offers valuable lessons for leaders and team members alike.

Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding and improving team dynamics. With its unique blend of storytelling and practical advice, the book offers a refreshing approach to addressing the challenges faced by teams in today’s organizations.

The book takes the form of a fable, following the journey of Kathryn Petersen, the newly appointed CEO of a struggling company. As she delves into the dysfunctional dynamics of the executive team, Lencioni skillfully presents the five dysfunctions that hinder team performance: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.

These five dysfunctions are:

  1. Absence of trust. Team members don’t feel safe being vulnerable with each other, which prevents them from building strong relationships.
  2. Fear of conflict. Team members avoid engaging in productive conflict, which stifles innovation and problem-solving.
  3. Lack of commitment. Team members don’t feel invested in the team’s goals, which leads to half-hearted decisions and poor execution.
  4. Avoidance of accountability. Team members don’t hold each other accountable for their actions, which leads to mediocrity and low performance.
  5. Inattention to results. Team members focus on their own individual goals, rather than the team’s overall success.

Each dysfunction is explored in-depth, with Lencioni vividly illustrating the consequences of these dysfunctions through the characters in the story. By weaving together personal anecdotes and practical strategies, he effectively conveys the impact of these dysfunctions on team cohesion, productivity, and overall success.

Lencioni emphasizes the importance of trust as the foundation of any high-performing team. He highlights the significance of vulnerability, open communication, and genuine understanding among team members. Through the narrative, he demonstrates how trust can be built and nurtured, fostering an environment of collaboration and mutual support.

Furthermore, the book stresses the necessity of healthy conflict within a team. Lencioni challenges the conventional notion that conflict is always detrimental, showing how constructive disagreements can lead to better decision-making and innovative solutions. By encouraging open dialogue and creating a safe space for differing opinions, teams can harness the power of healthy conflict to drive positive outcomes.

Lencioni also delves into the significance of commitment and accountability within a team. He underscores the importance of aligning team members around common goals and ensuring that everyone takes ownership of their responsibilities. Through practical tools and techniques, he provides guidance on how leaders can foster commitment, establish clear expectations, and implement mechanisms for accountability.

Finally, the book emphasizes the importance of focusing on collective results. Lencioni highlights the need for teams to prioritize the overall success of the organization above individual accomplishments or departmental interests. By fostering a results-oriented mindset, teams can overcome personal egos and work towards shared objectives, ultimately achieving greater success.

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” stands out for its simplicity and accessibility. Lencioni’s storytelling approach makes complex concepts easy to understand and relatable to real-life situations. The book not only provides a comprehensive framework for understanding team dysfunctions but also offers practical strategies and actionable steps for addressing them.

In conclusion, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni is an insightful and practical guide for team leaders and members looking to overcome the common pitfalls that can hinder team success. Through its engaging narrative format and actionable advice, the book offers a comprehensive framework for building a high-performing team that is capable of achieving its goals. While it may have some limitations, the book is a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their team’s dynamics and achieve better results.

Here are some additional thoughts on the book:

  • I like how Lencioni uses a fictional story to illustrate the five dysfunctions. It makes the book more engaging and easier to understand.
  • I also appreciate the practical tips that Lencioni provides for overcoming the five dysfunctions. These tips are helpful for leaders and team members alike.
  • Overall, I think The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to improve their team’s performance. It is a well-written and informative book that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in teamwork.


I highly recommend “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” to leaders at all levels, including executives, managers, and team leads. The book is an engaging and accessible read that can be applied to various teams and organizations. It’s an excellent choice for anyone looking to enhance their leadership skills, foster better team dynamics, and drive collective success.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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