I’m teaching a class on effective teams this semester and we have been using Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team as one of our texts.

We have discussed how several of his concepts are counter-intuitive and push up against some of the things we normally think of in the execution of team leadership.  One of the true, but perplexing, realities is the concept of the First Team.  

Leaders report “up” in addition to leading their own team.  The First Team means that people prioritize the senior team they are a member of over the team that they lead or manage.  We spend so much time concentrating on leading a team, developing “our people” and creating an effective culture that it can be hard when our membership on another team needs to take priority over that leadership role.  

But it does.

The senator needs to prioritize the good of the country over the good of her state.  The school board member must put the needs of the district over the desires of “her” school.  The manager must prioritize the needs of the senior management group over his department.  The coach must consider the athletic department or league before his individual sport.  The parent must concentrate on their marriage over the desires of their children.

Prioritizing the First Team over the team you lead can be a challenging thing to do.  But in the end, it is what is needed from leaders. 

The whole is the First Team.  Give it the institutional collaboration and cooperation it warrants to achieve your mission and overarching goals.

— beth triplett

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni, 2002, p. 135+
and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide by Patrick Lencioni, 2005, p. 77-78

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