The Ideal Team Player – Patrick Lencioni

The one sentence summary: There are three essential virtues that make someone the ideal team player: being humble, hungry and smart.


There are three essential virtues that make someone the ideal team player: being humble, hungry and smart.

You can plot everyone on a Venn diagram examining these qualities, and the ideal team player has a combination of all three, most of the time.

  • Humble: humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute.
  • Hungry: these people are self-motivated and diligent.
  • Smart: these people demonstrate common sense when dealing with others (it’s not the same as intellectual smartness).

Things start getting interesting when you look at people with only one or two of the attributes (see charts). Those with just one are fairly easy to spot:

  • Humble only = the pawn, who often gets left out
  • Hungry only = the bulldozer, who often annoys everyone else
  • Smart only = the charmer, with great social skills but low contribution

Those with 2 out of 3 are much harder to spot:

  • Humble and hungry = the accidental mess-maker, unaware of their effect on people
  • Humble and smart = the lovable slacker, only does as much as asked
  • Hungry and smart = the skillful politician, out for their own benefit


The technique can be applied to hiring new staff, assessing current employees, developing those who are lacking in one or more of the virtues, and embedding the model into an organization’s culture – the book explains how.

Looking carefully at the use of language and the degree to which you pursue lines of inquiry can make a huge difference to the imperfect interview process, as can proper pursuit of references.

“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” C. S. Lewis


Identifying people as these types shouldn’t be done flippantly. Wrong labelling can be very damaging.

Especially don’t assign labels to people who are relatively stronger in one of the three areas – they must significantly better or worse at each trait.

Managers also need to be intelligent about how, or whether at all, they use these terms with employees.