The golden rules of leadership in action, as told by Patrick Lencioni

In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, you discover the causes of politics within teams that produce underperformance. You are also introduced to a leader, Kathryn Petersen, who identifies the dysfunctions within the current management team and has the courage to tackle them and correct them. The outcome is an innovative leadership team driving the organization forward with renewed energy and greater sense of purpose.

But what attributes did Kathryn Petersen possess that enabled her to transform her management team? When reading The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership (written by Michael A. Soupios, and Panos Mourdoukoutas), you discover that Petersen’s qualities as a leader can be identified within the text.

In this article, I describe briefly the ten golden rules of leadership and show how Kathryn Petersen employed every single one, as she created the innovative and strategic leadership team that was able to then take Decision Tech Inc. toward its goals.

What are the five dysfunctions of a team?

When Petersen joined Decision Tech, she quickly assessed the leadership team and found that it suffered from the five dysfunctions of a team. Namely:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

Petersen’s job was to correct these dysfunctions. Failure to do so would mean that the company would slide into a steep decline. Having uncovered the issues, the solution lay in leading the team on a path of self-discovery. To do this, Petersen used the full range of leadership techniques and qualities as defined in The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership.

What are the ten golden rules of leadership?

1.    Know thyself

It’s imperative to have a deep understanding of yourself to be able to lead. Self-awareness will help you to control situations, stresses, and pressures. It helps you understand how you react in different situations, and then to shape your reactions to produce the desired result. Kathryn Petersen benefitted from high emotional intelligence, enabling her to deal with every member of the leadership team in an even-handed and productive manner.

2.    Office shows the person

When a person is given power, it reveals their real identity as a leader. Petersen used this technique on several occasions throughout, as she helped each member redefine their own motives and responsibilities to the team. One member of the team, Sales Director Jeff (JR) Rawlins, left the team as he no longer wanted to sit in on meetings where he was expected to contribute to solving other people’s problems.

3.    Nurture community in the workplace

Teams cannot function unless they do so with a sense of community and in a positive environment. One of the first things that Petersen did was to hold an off-site team development retreat, something which then became a regular practice. This allowed her and others to bind as a team, guided by Petersen’s support.

4.    Do not waste energy on things you cannot change

Petersen had a limited amount of time to turn the team around. If you think about any situation, all leaders are similarly timebound. Many leaders make the mistake of wasting time, energy and resources on things that they cannot control or change. Having spent some time talking to JR and assessing him as a person and a leader, Petersen was able to identify that he was a lost cause to the company. Moving on without him would mean her energy could be better used to create a coherent team with the other members.

5.    Always embrace the truth

One issue that Petersen was quickly able to pinpoint at Decision Tech was the lack of trust among the team. There was no healthy conflict, and so no real solutions were ever created. She encouraged team members to speak the truth, and say how they felt about each other and company issues in a constructive manner. When describing the need to embrace the truth and the lack of trust within the team, Petersen described the two reasons she considered lack of trust to be an issue:

  • Lack of debate and interaction among the team
  • Discomfort in challenging each other

6.    Let competition reveal talent

It’s important to create an environment where talent is embraced and encouraged to show itself. This builds a platform to release innovation and creativity. After 12 months as CEO, Petersen had noticed a huge progression in the team. They were more competitive, assertive, eager, and enthusiastic. Team members were coming to meetings with ideas to increase competitive advantage in the marketplace. From a dysfunctional team, Petersen had molded a highly efficient, coherent, and innovative team all pulling in the same direction. A team of leaders.

7.    Live life by a higher code

Earn respect and trust through your actions, and not because others fear your power. Be true to your principles, and be prepared to help others without expecting the favor to be returned.

After the off-site retreat, Petersen met with Nick Farrell, Chief Operating Officer, who wanted Decision Tech to acquire another company. Kathryn disagreed. Nick said that as an acquisition and merger manager he didn’t have much to do, and felt bored and helpless watching the others screw up.

Petersen explained that she considered Nick’s attitude was contributing to the dysfunction of the team. He only tore people apart instead of supporting them.

At the next team meeting, Nick arrived late. He apologized for his behavior at previous meetings, and said that he now wanted to contribute to the leadership team and organization. Consequently, with a changed attitude, Nick became an integral member of the leadership team.

8.    Always evaluate information with a critical eye

When Petersen joined Decision Tech, she spent two weeks discovering the issues and problems facing the leadership team. She met with staff members, observed meetings, and discovered her challenge. She noted that team meetings resulted in no decisions being made, and were peppered with underlying tensions. There was little forward progress.

When evaluating information, do so critically. Ensure that you don’t rush to judge, and assess the credibility of information and its messengers.

9.    Never underestimate the power of personal integrity

Always be true to your values and beliefs, and you won’t need to rationalize the wrong behavior. In the team environment, values and beliefs should determine the team strategy and plan. Lack of personal integrity often leads to avoidance of accountability. Petersen explained to the team that this manifested itself by people not holding each other accountable if they haven’t agreed to the same plan.

10. Character is destiny

Your destiny as a leader lay in your hands. It is defined by your character and personal integrity. Kathryn Petersen stayed true to herself and her values. She helped the team mold, in line with every one of the ten golden rules of leadership.

Contact Primeast today and take the first step to ensuring that your leaders benefit from the emotional intelligence and leadership traits that create innovative, forward-thinking, cohesive leadership teams.

Join our community of learners and leaders

Subscribe to receive updates on service launches, articles and free learning and development resources