The Soul of a Team | Book Review

“What separates the truly great teams from the mediocre ones?” asks Tony Dungy in The Soul of a Team. His answer is “four simple yet highly effective principles — selflessness, ownership, unity, and larger purpose.” The principles form a memorable acronym: S.O.U.L.

Here’s how Dungy defines the principles:

  • Selflessness: Putting individual needs aside for the good of the team.
  • Ownership: Fulfilling your role by learning it thoroughly and by consistently giving 100 percent.
  • Unity: Understanding and rallying around your team’s mission, philosophy, and culture through open communication and positive conflict resolution.
  • Larger Purpose: Contributing to the wider community in a lasting and significant way.

Selflessness, ownership, and unity constitute the what of teamwork, but larger purpose constitutes the why. Teams often find that defining their larger purpose is a difficult task, but once they have done so, writes Dungy, that purpose “guides their decision-making, shapes their relationships, and influences their conduct,” as well as gives a team “a vibrancy and sense of worth it wouldn’t otherwise have.”

To illustrate the S.O.U.L. principles, Dungy narrates the turnaround of a fictional football team, the Orlando Vipers, in desperate need of a winning season. The principles themselves are transferable to any endeavor that requires teamwork, however, including ministry. Throughout the book, Dungy’s leadership advice is rooted in his Christian faith.

The Soul of Leadership is written in the vein of Patrick Lencioni’s “leadership fables.” If you like the format of Lencioni’s books — tell a story, then explain its meaning — you may like this one too.

Book Reviewed
Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker, The Soul of a Team: A Modern-Day Fable for Winning Teamwork (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from with permission.

Leading Healthy, High-Performance Teams | Influence Podcast

It’s been said that teamwork makes the dream work. That’s true for any organization, but it’s especially true for churches. After all, the business of Church isrelationship — with God and with others.

Unfortunately, many churches experience relational dysfunction in the leadership team, the congregation as a whole, or both. They also often fail to realize the vision for the Church laid out by Christ in the Great Commission. In High Impact Teams, Lance Witt explains why churches don’t have to choose between relationships and results. He then shows how to bring those two things together for greater effectiveness in ministry.

Witt is founder of Replenish, a ministry with two goals: (1) to help individuals live and lead from a healthy soul and (2) to help teams and organizations become healthy and high-performing. Before launching Replenish, he served 20 years as a senior pastor and six years as an executive and teaching pastor for Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.

He’s my guest on Episode 157 of the Influence Podcast.


P.S. This review is cross-posted from

P.P.S. Here’s my brief recommendation of the book from the November-December 2018 issue of Influence:

Ministry is a team sport. Too often, however, ministry teams don’t play to their full potential. “The best teams are both healthy and high performing,” writes Lance Witt. “They focus on relationship and results.” To help ministry teams achieve their potential, Witt outlines a Christian approach to ownership, self-leadership, productivity, relationship, conflict resolution, and culture. If you’ve played on a high-impact ministry team, this book will explain why that team worked well. If you haven’t played on such a team, it will explain how to up your team’s game. Either way, High Impact Teams is insightful and practical.

Book Reviewed
Lance Witt, High Impact Teams: Where Healthy Meets High Performance (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please click “Helpful” on my review page.

Monday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at

  • Heath Adamson and I talk about three outcomes for youth ministry: gospel-centeredness, Spirit-empowerment, and personal responsibility. This is episode 92 of the Influence Podcast. If you haven’t checked us out yet, make sure to listen to, rate, and share from our catalogue of conversations with Christian leaders!
  • If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, check out Make It Count. This free downloadable resource is an eight-week development curriculum you can use with your team. It appears in every issue of Influence magazine. The June-July issue is “Eight Keys to Improving Teamwork.” Take a look!
  • We note Allen Downey’s analysis of the CIRP Freshman Survey, which shows that the number of freshmen claiming no religious affiliation has tripled in the last three decades.

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Review of ‘The Ideal Team Player’ by Patrick Lencioni

The-Ideal-Team-PlayerPatrick Lencioni, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues: A Leadership Fable (Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2016).

Effective organizations—whether they’re multinational corporations, professional sports franchises, or local churches—practice teamwork. When people work together on a common goal, they achieve more than they could do individually and experience a measure of personal satisfaction. When people work against one another, however, the result is organizational ineffectiveness and personal frustration.

In his 2002 bestseller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni outlined five ways teamwork goes awry: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. While that book identified the interpersonal dynamics of effective teams, it did not identify the personal qualities of effective team members. Lencioni’s new book, The Ideal Team Player, picks up where Five Dysfunctions left off and outlines three essential “virtues”: An ideal team member is humble, hungry, and smart.

Humility comes first because it is “the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.” Humble team players are not “overtly arrogant,” of course, but they do not “lack self-confidence” either. Rather, quoting C. S. Lewis, Lencioni writes, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Humility makes collective action possible. Without it, teams don’t work effectively, because each member is either out for themselves ( due to overt arrogance) or unable to propose solutions (because of lack of self-confidence).

“Hungry people are always looking for more,” writes Lencioni. They are “self-motivated and diligent.” For a team to work effectively, each team member must proactively contribute to the overall effort. No slackers are allowed.

Smart doesn’t pertain to “intellectual capacity,” though it’s similar to emotional intelligence. Lencioni defines it as “a person’s common sense about people…the ability to be interpersonally appropriate and aware.” Ideal team members are people-smart.

After defining these three virtues, Lencioni outlines why and how they must work together. “If even one is missing in a team member, teamwork becomes significantly more difficult and sometimes not possible.” A team member who is only humble and hungry, for example, becomes an “accidental mess-maker” because they are constantly—albeit unintentionally—stepping on others’ toes. One who is only humble and smart is a “lovable slacker,” liked by all, but only willing to exert minimum necessary effort. Someone who is only hungry and smart is a “skillful politician,” which Lencioni describes as being “cleverly ambitious and willing to work extremely hard, but only in as much as it will benefit them personally.”

Although Lencioni wrote The Ideal Team Player for the secular business world, my description of its contents should convince ministers that it has application to the work of local churches as well. (Indeed, Lencioni—a devout Catholic—notes that Jesus Christ is the “most compelling example of humility in the history of mankind.”) The humble-hungry-smart model gives senior pastors and ministers who lead volunteers valuable insights into who to hire, how to assess their performance, what can be done to develop them when they lack one or more of the virtues, and how to embed those virtues in a church’s organizational culture. Consequently, I highly recommend this book to ministers and ministry leaders.

One final note: As with The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Ideal Team Player begins with what Lencioni calls “a leadership fable.” He tells the story of the CEO of a family-owned building company who discovers these three virtues in the course of taking over the reins of the company from his uncle. Only after telling the fable does Lencioni describe the humble-hungry-smart model in propositional terms. This narrative way of approaching the subject shows before it tells. This makes Lencioni’s points concrete and easy to understand. The show-then-tell approach is also, it seems to me, a great way to preach…though that is a subject for another time.

P.S. This review first appeared on

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

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