The Importance of a Cohesive Team

By John DeBoer  |  November 4th

I recently had the chance to hear Patrick Lencioni in person. Though not quite the same as going to a big-name concert, Patrick is certainly a rock star in the world of business leadership and organizational health. He has a self-professed heart for smaller businesses, schools, and churches, so his talk felt really relevant.

Patrick’s core point was that teamwork remains the ultimate competitive advantage for organizations. He suggested that a major factor that makes an organization healthy is a cohesive team. A team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible (via selfless, shared sacrifice) for achieving a common purpose for their organization.

For our schools, let’s focus on the leadership team and the four principles (among others) I believe are essential for a strong team:

1.       Vulnerability lies at the core of a culture where we can give the gift of trust, build trust, and invest in trust. Vulnerability encourages us to be human with one another (sharing real stories and struggles). In a leadership team, we recognize the hidden vulnerabilities of leadership and are encouraged by each other. With vulnerability, we can be honest and engage with healthy conflict.

Good reads in this area: The Advantage (Lencioni), Strong and Weak (Crouch), and anything by Brené Brown!

2.       In a flat organizational structure, we reduce bureaucracy and red tape. When we focus on purpose, mastery, and autonomy, we give life, trust, and permission to the members of a team. This one may seem obvious, but it is surprising how we, as humans, can be so trapped by systems thinking, and not even be aware of it.

Good reads in this area: Drive (Daniel Pink), The Starfish and the Spider (Brafman and Beckstrom), and First, Break all the Rules (Buckingham)

3.       Members of a Leadership Team need opportunities to lead, to make decisions, to make mistakes, and to have support. 

Good read in this area: Leaders Made Here (Mark Miller)

4.       Have fun. Sometimes I can get caught up in having to do things a certain way (systems thinking), or always having to do things the “right” way, or being burdened by the mantle of a calling (there’s a serious word). This may sound trivial but last year, I had a whiteboard installed in my office. It doesn’t come close to matching the décor, but I like it when we can think together on a board. It’s fun. I encourage you to play with ideas and structures.

A simple article or even a leadership presentation can’t give you an exact formula for creating a leadership team. We all live in different contexts and realities. Applications change depending on your school. But we can all learn from each other! If you are interested in further conversation, I am happy to connect with you.

John De Boer is the High Schools Cohort Mentor. He can be reached at