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Book review: The Ideal Team Player

| by Allen Hamlin

Humble. Hungry [passionate, committed, diligent]. And [people] smart. These are the three ingredients that Patrick Lencioni, in The Ideal Team Player: How To Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, identifies as being essential for an individual to contribute positively to a team dynamic. In presenting the “ideal” team player, he's cautious to mention that these components alone don't make someone "perfect", but they do provide the necessary backdrop for engaging with others in a collaborative and productive dynamic.

Lencioni is clear that all three of these attributes can be developed--they're not merely talents or hardwired abilities--and thus anyone who's willing can engage in the personal development necessary to be an effective group contributor. He singles out humility as the most essential of these qualities, even concluding his book with explicit mention of Christ as the divine origin and supreme model of humility; an overtly Christian message brought out in a book that is otherwise presented so as to be palatable to a secular, business-minded audience.

While there are many books out there about team dynamics (including Lencioni's own "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team"), there are fewer that are aimed at the specific attributes of the individual team member, how he/she can develop in order to be a positive participant within a group dynamic. My own publishing on followership reveals my heart for the necessity of such resources, and I am glad to find a kindred spirit in this particular work by Lencioni. Although most of the book's recommendations in terms of application are aimed at how leaders can help to inculcate these three attributes of the ideal team player across the organizational ethos, I believe that non-leaders will also be able to glean much to reflect on and to use for self-assessment as one considers his/her own postures of humility, hunger, and aptitude for engaging with others.

As with Lencioni's other books, the first three-fourths is given to a narrative parable intended to illustrate his model; while I find this section of limited value, the remaining 50-60 pages of the book does an excellent job in offering a concise presentation of what he means by these three virtues and what their pursuit and encouragement can look like in an organizational context. Business environments form his presumed audience, but with some consideration, a reader may be able to find ways to apply his ideas to church, ministry, or volunteering.

Overall, I find Lencioni's presentation to accord well with God's expectations for how we engage with others and contribute to endeavors larger than ourselves, and I believe that leaders and followers of various stripes will be able to find perspective and encouragement to fuel their excellent participation in the various teams, work groups, and committees that the Lord has brought them into.


Allen Hamlin
Allen Hamlin has served overseas since 2006, and provides team building consultation around the world. He currently lives in Wales, and oversees ministries in the southern UK. He is the author of Embracing Followership (Kirkdale Press; Feb 2016).

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