Team or Group of individuals?

World Cup fever has really taken hold and it has been a brilliant tournament so far. Watching some of the games it has made me reflect on a question I often ask when I am coaching or running leadership workshops.

It’s a philosophical point that is very indicative of the Mindset of the leader.

Would you rather be the Star Player in a team that fails to qualify, knowing that you have personally performed to a really high level but the team as a whole has fallen short. Or would you rather be the worst player in a team that wins the tournament?

It’s a really interesting question because option 1 talks into your desire to be your best and to strive to lead from the front but also has elements of self-obsession and ego traits. Scenario 2 on the other hand shows a desire to put team ahead of self but has elements of not wanting to let down your team or not fully contributing.

As we watched Croatia beat Argentina this week we saw this very scenario played out. Messi, arguably the worlds best player, has been part of a team that has failed miserably. The best player on the planet he may be but he is also a part of possibly the worst Argentinian side in recent history. Croatia on the other hand have some really good players but what stood them out was their team work and the fact that they all supported one another and worked together to achieve a famous win and easily qualified for the next round.

You could easily argue that is the dominance of Messi and the reliance on his brilliance is the very reason why Argentina are such a poor side overall. it is not just Messi – they have many great individuals but they simply did not connect and come together as a team and therefore were easy to play against and easy to beat.

My view is that I would happily put aside personal glory and personal performance if that would help the team to be successful. Being the worst player in a triumphant side might hurt my own ego and negatively impact my self esteem but I personally would take that over inglorious defeat!

Teams are all about the combined power of all the parts. When a team see’s themselves as equals – where there is an egalitarian attitude the performance of the team generally improves. However, when talent or status creates inequality and unfairness then the team becomes nothing more than a group of individuals.

As leaders we have to harness the abilities of our top performers but not allow this to create factions – the team has to come first. Teams are made up of individuals, of course they are but the leaders job is to create an identity that draws these individuals together and ensures they put their team-mates ahead of themselves.

At Mindset Associates we are pioneers of team dynamics and shaping high performing team cultures – if you would like to speak to us about how we can help your team reach even greater heights then contact us at

Haydn Bratt, Pioneer, Mindset Associates

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