The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable Summary


The majority of Patrick Lencioni's work The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a fictionalized account of a very typical management challenge. The fictitous company is DecisionTech, a 150 person software start-up in Silicon Valley. The company, thanks to the efforts of Jeff the company's firstCEO, is well funded and staffed with top level executives. However, the company is lagging behind several competitors and the board has replaced Jeff with Kathryn. Kathryn immediately begins a careful review of the situation and determines that the senior management team isn't much of a team at all. Utilizing a series of exercises and off-site meetings, Kathryn begins an aggressive team building (and team thinning). She opens ever meeting of her direct reports with the following speech:

"We have a more experienced and talented executive team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than they do...We have better core technology. And we have a powerful board of directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth. Can anyone here tell me why that is?"

In fact, Kathryn goes on to open every executive team meeting with this very quote. In time, Kathryn observes the personality traits of her team and their short comings clearly illustrate the 5 dysfunctions of a typical team:

Teams need trust to communicate honestly and openly > Absence of Trust

Fear of Conflict

Teams must commit together > Lack of Commitment. (Trust is a Prereq)

Avoidance of Accountability

Inattention to results


Kathryn succeeds in righting the ship and turning DecisionTech around but not without some trials and tribulations on the way. The newly invigorated executive team is much much stronger.

More Key Points

Common team goals lead individuals to making better decisions, seeing beyond their own potentially narrow self interests and really moving the needle in the corporate world.

The catch is simple: building and maintaining a team is hard work and can force even the most seasoned professional well outside of their traditional comfort zones. Professionals have disparate work habits, communication styles and levels of emotional intelligence. Getting everyone to pull in the same direction can be tough work!

Doing so takes a specialized set of skills but you can gain this know how from a number of options. Consider a BS in organizational leadership where you can choose from a variety of courses or attend team building seminars where you can network with other team leaders for tips and advice.

This book also includes pages of worksheets, self-assessments and more. This work is a quick one or two hour read.

Recommended Resources

For a more in-depth, comprehensive summary of Five Dysfunctions of a Team, check out

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