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Lencioni and Consensus

Eric Oldenburg's caution about Lencioni's position on consensus in leadership

Since becoming Area Director, a good number of people have recommended that I read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. This short and very readable book is based around a hypothetical leadership scenario where one leader is faced with keeping a team together that is on the brink of collapse. In order to do so, she teachers her team members about the 5 dysfunctions and helps them to overcome them and to become a healthy thriving body of leaders.

My first reaction is that the book was helpful in pointing out some issues in team dynamics that we don't often think about. I'm thankful for those insights.

My second reaction concerns the very corporate/business focus of the book. Apart from one final comment at the end of the book where the author thanks the Triune God for “all that I am,” the book does not contain a spiritual dimension or reflect a spiritual perspective on life. That doesn't make the book bad but it does limit it's value in a setting like ours.

Finally, and most importantly, I feel compelled to respond to the very clear and distinct disdain for “consensus” that is conveyed throughout the book. My sense is that a good number of you have read the book and likely didn't pay much attention to that. If you did, it might have been a little odd to hear me state at Eurasia Family Conference last summer that I make leadership decisions, “by consensus.” Let me make a clarification. The consensus that Lencioni is talking about is an attempt to make everyone happy through a decision that includes everyone's input, offends no one and often has no weight because it has been compromised to death. That's not what I have in mind. I use the term the way the old Quakers/Friends use the term, which carries the idea that each person in a decision making process, all of whom are believers, are both led by and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As a decision is discussed, the leader's job is to discern the consensus of these Spirit-filled believers as we seek the best decision. When there is disagreement, a solution isn't sought to please everyone and hard questions aren't backed away from. Rather, time is taken to discern which decision carries the most weight and can be supported by the leadership as the way the Spirit would have us move forward. Please see the Wikipedia definition of consensus, which illustrates the variation that Lencioni is so hostile to, followed by the description of consensus given by the Evangelical Friends Church Southwest (of which our sending church is a member), which is what I have in mind when I say that I attempt to lead AC by consensus.

Consensus (Wikipedia-style): A group decision making process that seeks the consent, not necessarily the agreement, of participants and the resolution of objections. It is used to describe both the decision and the process of reaching a decision. Consensus decision-making is thus concerned with the process of reaching a consensus decision, and the social and political effects of using this process.

Consensus (Quaker-style): Friends have a unique way of doing business. We do not vote. Instead we discuss and prayerfully reach agreement of what we believe is the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is sometimes called “the sense of the meeting” or simply “consensus.” It is more than simply reaching the lowest common denominator of agreement. At its best, it is discerning the mind of Christ and His direction as the Head of the church. For this reason, all business meetings begin with a period of worship. The intent is that the participants will continue to pray for guidance as they conduct the business in the spirit of worship. Spiritual life and business are two sides of the same coin and should never be separated. The goal is to submit to the rule of God's kingdom as we serve Him together.

Some further thoughts on consensus leadership and decision-making from This article discusses some of the biblical exceptions to consensus leadership.

lencioni_and_consensus.txt · Last modified: 2019/04/11 11:15 by faithciasico

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