A Critical Oversight in ‘Team’

It’s often said: There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’. When we think about team, we’re supposed to think about the collective unit, a group joined together, without individual ambitions getting in the way.

But, we don’t actually do that.

Nor should we.

When thinking about team, it’s almost automatic that we think about the leader. Despite the celebrity status of many professional athletes, it’s remarkable to me how much of the attention of commentators (armchair or professional) is directed toward the coaches.

We run into trouble when we consider the concept of team and then only draw attention to the leadership role. We still end up with a dichotomy of: team = leader + everybody else. By saying there’s no ‘I’ in team, we still keep the door open for one individual (the leader) but then erase the unique contributions of everybody else.

Team is a vital concept for organizations to embrace and develop; having worked as a team development consultant for more than 10 years, I heartily agree that there is extraordinary value in team.

But when the concept of team is proposed as a way to erase individuality in hopes of establishing an overwhelming sense of unity, we commit a major oversight: we lose appreciation of the individual components and human resources that comprise our team, and we end up with only the most superficial sense of unity.

True unity requires the joining together of real people–not the ambiguous bonding of nondescript team member clones.

And true team is the bringing together of multiple roles and positions, the utilization of various talents and skills, the collaboration of unique ideas and perspectives, the cooperation of diverse human beings.

If we sweep all of that awareness away, hiding it under a broad notion of team, we turn our opportunity for effective oversight into error-ridden oversight.

When we embrace the notion of followership, we see that the amazing accomplishment of team is that there is no single ‘I’ in team, but rather ‘team’ is composed of a multitude of I’s, each of which is a bit different, but which, when truly joined together, creates a unit characterized by true unity and effectiveness.


For encouragement and guidance in understanding and applying yourself to following with excellence and helping others to do the same, see:

EmbracingFollowership_CoverTextureEmbracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (by Allen Hamlin Jr; Kirkdale Press, Feb 2016)

Find other recommendations for various aspects of followership on our Resources page.

Links to other posts on this site: Blog Post Index


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