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Book review: The Ideal Team Player

| by Phil Wood

Some leadership books, even those by leading Evangelical authors, are often hard to apply to settings driven by Kingdom principles. One wonders, however, how the principles of The Ideal Team Player can actually fly in secular settings that are not guided by biblical precepts.

Seen as a management Guru with over five million books in print, Patrick Lencioni has a background in consulting with a history as a HR exec at Oracle. He is a favorite speaker at the annual Leadership Summit put on by Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association and is not ashamed to refer to his deep Catholic faith in his entertaining and engaging speeches. 

Known best for his New York Times best-seller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni follows up in The Ideal Team Player with a description of “the most valuable qualities a person should develop in order to thrive in the world of work – and for that matter life . . .”

Written in typical Lencioni style, the first two thirds of the book is the fable of a leader that is desperate to save a family construction firm. Inheriting the reigns of firm, a nephew does not realize how sick both the health of the uncle and the business really are. Much of the storyline revolves around the younger executive exploring the qualities that are necessary for someone to be a good team member.

The fable might be a little too long and a little too slow to read, but the development of the plot and characters are probably necessary to model the dilemma many leaders face when choosing between character and talent. Of course, neither should be sacrificed and Lencioni lists the three non-negotiable virtues of Humble, Hungry, and Smart.

The remainder of the book is a practical section on how to identify these indispensable virtues in prospective employees and how to develop them in current ones. That section could be read on its own and is worth the price of the book.

As a leader desiring to be guided by biblical principles, The Ideal Team Player is attractive for many settings. In a manner that is less Guru-like, but rather with teachings that are more Paul or even Jesus-esque, Lencioni identifies the three core competencies as not merely qualities, but as virtues, with humility foremost.

Phil Wood

Phil Wood pastors Fellowship Church in Carol Stream, Illinois and is director of The Wayside Center, a homeless outreach in the Chicago area.

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