There’s no I in team.
At least that’s how the saying goes. It’s a saying that was always unsettling to me when coming from leadership, but I never really thought about challenging it before. Actually, for a long time I thought it was just my ever out-of-check pride that wanted some attention. I mean, it felt like I was the only one with a problem that the “I” was getting tossed to the side for the sake of the “we” when the “I” was supposed to work hard for the success of the “we”. See my dilemma?
Losing the I in the We
This subtle but growing tension inside me kept swelling. I became secretly critical of team leaders and wondered if many of them really knew what they were doing. Some “Christian” I am, right? But, truth is truth and this was a real issue for me. I wanted to be certain that wherever I was, that I was being led well.
Over time I learned that this was not an individual issue. There were other “I” people that were tired and frustrated with being mistreated or neglected for “we” and then expected to perform at 110% on an “I” level for the sake of we. I discovered that there were more people, specifically young adults between 18 and 29 years old, who were looking for a place where the “I” would be nurtured as a part of the team. Not discarded or overlooked in the name of corporate success.
Jesus and the Eye
Now, having been a Christian for a little while I knew that God had to have something to say about this. So I went searching through the pages of the Bible and lo and behold, a solution to my problem!
In Matthew Chapter 7, verses 3 to 5 Jesus makes a statement that I think many of us, Christian or not, know by heart. In this passage Jesus is addressing the legalistic spiritual leaders of his day. Most of them were well-known for being extremely judgemental of other people’s relationship with God, but Jesus was not having it. He very directly and sharply, reprimanded this behavior.
This is what he said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matt. 7:3-5 ESV
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ – Jesus” quote=”‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?'”]
In this context, Jesus is specifically talking about legalistically judging the spiritual walk of others in a demeaning or prideful way. His big idea was that how you judge others in this context, you will also be judged by God.
Are You Leading You?
To make a point, I would like to borrow Jesus’s illustration for moment. See, for such a long time I had been so focused on being led well that the only things I was able to see were the gaps in other people’s leadership skills. Rarely, if ever, did I stop to ask myself not simply if I was a good leader, but more specifically, am I a good leader of me? I was picking at the speck in other people’s leadership of me but ignorant of the log of my poor self-leadership.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Rarely, if ever, did I stop to ask if I was a good leader, or more specifically, am I a good leader of me?'” quote=”‘Rarely, if ever, did I stop to ask if I was a good leader, or more specifically, am I a good leader of me?'”]
This is my bottom line: [clickToTweet tweet=”Great team players are committed self leaders.” quote=”Great team players are committed self leaders”] They recognize that a personal committment to healthy self-leadership of “I” will result in less frustration and more success with “we“.
Being a team leader myself at the moment, this couldn’t be a more pertinent truth. I currently lead a team of about 30 people that’s still growing. My team is dynamic and some-what fluid, ranging from college students to those who are old enough to be my parents and wise enough to replace me if needed. I learned quickly that if I am going to lead my team well, I need to learn to lead me well. No one else is going to take responsibility for my personal growth and development, that is my job.
Our growth in time management, physical fitness, psychological and emotional balance, spiritual maturity, or even healthy dietary habits, all of which are essential to longevity in anything we do, is never going to be someone else’s responsibility (or priority). Not to mention the need to attain or sharpen the skills necessary for the particular career or field of work we’re in or desire to be in. It’s vital then, that we make sure these needed skills are on our radar and are in good health and growing consistently. The more efficient we are at leading ourselves, the more effective we become at leading others.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘I learned quickly that if I am going to lead my team well, I need to learn to lead me well.'” quote=”‘I learned quickly that if I am going to lead my team well, I need to learn to lead me well.'”]
What’s also great about this, is that it’s what I would like to call a life principle. Meaning, it’s transferable to other area’s of life. Whether you’re hoping to improve your relationship with friends, family, spouse, colleagues, classmates or business partners, this principle is applicable. Wherever we function as an individual part of a larger team of people, we can employ the principle of self leadership in order to reduce frustration and increase the success of the whole.
When I think about this principle, I often think about people like Lebron James, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, or Ben Roethlisberger, who is the current Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Great athletes like Lebron and Ben, understand this principle well because it is necessary to achieve greatness in team sports. These athletes often commit to intense personal practice regiments in order grow themselves as an asset to the team they belong to. When every team member shares this personal commitment, you’ve got a championship winning team.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Great team players are committed self leaders.'” quote=”‘Great team players are committed self leaders.'”]
Where To Begin
So what’s next? How do we even begin to lead ourselves? I’m about to suggest a simple activity you can use to begin to nurture the “I” so that you can achieve more success and reduce frustration with the “we“.
This year I made an internal committment to personal leadership and growth for the sake of others. This internal committment has externally reshaped how I approach life, work, relationships and even leisure. I’m not going to suggest you make the same commitment, but I’ll share a key thing I did to get started. This activity will give you more clarity in how (and where) to begin to lead yourself. My hope is that it will also spark something inside of you that gets you going in a direction you’re excited about.
For this practice you’ll need to create a three column – three row document. Whether is a notebook or on a computer, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you’ll see it regularly.
In this column you’ll need to write down three areas of life where you’re a part of a “team”. I suggest three so that you don’t overwhelm yourself, but you can tackle more if you want. These areas can include family, a place of employment, a volunteer team, or an organization that you lead as a part of team.
Example 1: Family (Relationship with wife)
Example 2: Work
Use this column to identify and note one major area you need to grow in or be better led in.
Example 1: Family (Relationship with wife) – “I want a more fun relationship with my wife.”
Example 2: Work – “We need better training on how to use the new software.”
This column is for you to write down what you can do to provide better leadership for yourself. This can include reading a book, taking a class, watching YouTube tutorials, finding a mentor from outside that circle, or just asking better questions.
Example 1: Family (Relationship with wife) – “I can purchase a book on how to plan more creative dates.” (Or google it and find great ideas on Pinterest!)
Example 2: Work – “I can find some tutorials on YouTube and share with my coworkers what I pick up.” or “I can ask Joe, who installed it, if he’d be willing to walk me through it over lunch.”
The Pocket Potential
The Pocket Potential for today: If you’re frustrated with how you’re being led or really need to have more success in working with others (or in your everyday relationship with others), it may be time to take a look at how well you’re leading yourself. Remembering that great team players are committed leaders of themselves. They have a personal committment to self-leadership so that they can gain greater success with others. Unlock the potential of your team, personal relationships or organization by applying this principle daily.
How to Make it Count
Write it down – Don’t do this in your head. Our memories may be great, but let’s be real, they’re not that amazing. And if you’re like me, it just straight up sucks.
Be honest with you – This exercise isn’t to see how great or horrible we are and it’s not meant to be shared with everyone. It’s about identifying how we can become greater than we are. In order to do that we have to take an objective look at where growth is needed. If necessary, find a trusted friend and ask them to provide feedback on areas where you can grow.
Plan with dates – Make a plan, put it somewhere you’ll see it and make sure you have deadlines! Set dates to start, dates to check in, and of course dates to celebrate. However you choose to do it, just make sure you put it on the calendar!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to share it with a friend and follow this blog by signing up with your email so you never miss a post. Also, if you have other ideas about great practices of self leadership leave a comment. I’d love to learn from you!
Latest posts by Paul Crosswell (see all)
- The “Eye” In Team: How To Save Yourself From Poor Leadership - October 25, 2017
Paul W. Croswell Jr. (formerly Paulkrost) is a husband, artist, speaker and Pastor. Passionate about personal leadership, culture shaping, and young adults, Paul dedicates his time to equipping people to discover a more collectively impactful and personally fulfilling life.
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