Dysfunctions of a Team (3 min)

Dysfunctions of a Team

New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur, Patrick Lencioni, in a book of leadership fables, introduces five dysfunctions that leads to the failure or collapse of teams. His central theory is based on five key pillars of a well-functioning team. He then goes on to demonstrate how a team becomes dysfunctional if they break down or are lacking in one or more of these areas. Let’s look at them each in turn:


Trust is the foundation of a healthy, functioning team. It is trust which creates the safety for healthy conflict to happen – a necessary component of any successful relationship. For trust to be built, team members must be willing to show a degree of vulnerability and be willing to take some risks in order to build a collectively felt sense of safety.
Teams become dysfunctional when there is an absence of trust, and a fear of being vulnerable enough to share challenges. The leader of a team must be the first to set the tone of trust and vulnerability.

Healthy conflict

A well-functioning team can tolerate and engage in conflict around ideas or courses of action. Members of the team feel safe to disagree and share a diversity of opinions or viewpoints.
Teams become dysfunctional when the desire to preserve an inauthentic group harmony supersedes the drive for healthy conflict and diversity within the team. As the leader of a team, it is down to you to make sure all voices are heard.


After exploring and sharing a diversity of views via healthy conflict and disagreement, a healthy team is then able to come to a collective decision, coming into alignment with a solution they can all buy into and commit to.
A team becomes dysfunctional when they fail to all align and buy into important goals and expectations, and are therefore unable to commit to key decisions. As a team leader, you can support this by being clear about what is expected, and supporting the team to come to an agreement to achieve full buy-in.


Accountability requires everyone in the team to be clear about what is expected of them. These expectations must be agreed to by everyone in order for it to work. The entire team must buy in and be committed to these expectations.
A team becomes dysfunctional when its members are too averse to individual discomfort, or not sufficiently committed to the expectations of each other, to hold each other accountable via challenging feedbacks or discussions. As a team leader, you can model the importance of the difficult conversations that support accountability.

Results Focused

A team that have trust, healthy conflict, commitment and accountability are able to focus on the collective performance and results of the team. Where there is no accountability to the team, individuals are more likely to be driven by their own interests or goals than those of the team.
A team becomes dysfunctional when behavior is driven by ego and politics, with individual interests taking precedence over team goals and collective performance. As the leader of a team, you can make sure everyone is clear on, committed to, and motivated by team goals to keep things on track.