Fiercely Independent but a Team Player

By | October 10, 2018

[October 10, 2018]  A friend of mine since childhood, Jerry, seemed like a contradiction in his psychological makeup.  He was fiercely independent yet he was also a dedicated team player.  Many of his friends, like me, questioned how a leader can be both independent and a team player at the same time.

Here is how he did it!

Fierce independence, he told me, “does not mean being a loner or working out of your parent’s basement.”  It also doesn’t mean being a social outcast or even being successful by not relying on others.  Independence means that you personally do not need the constant attention or help of others to make you a good person.  You possess the character to know the difference between right and wrong and also only ask for help from others when you are in desperate need.

This independence he was talking about meant being financially secure, emotionally strong, family-centered, religiously committed, and team dedicated.  To Jerry, this meant that he worked hard growing up to gain social skills and job technical abilities necessary to succeed in life.  True, he had coaches and mentors that guided him in the right direction.  And, his parents knew that raising an independent child meant taking risks to outsource some of his upbringings to dedicated teachers and coaches.

“Individual talents get magnified many times over through the collective lens of an effective team.” – Dalal Haldeman, PhD, former VP of Marketing at Johns Hopkins Medicine

Being a team player meant that Jerry understood that to make yourself a better at it requires that everyone work together on the road to a common goal.  It meant that you take care of each other but understand that each person is an individual who was responsible for both developing their own talents.  He deeply believed in the team and would sacrifice it all for them if he were asked.

He once told me that talent and skill may win games, but teamwork wins championships.    It’s the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.  The basis of being a team player – and this is where Jerry really shined – was in the building of trust and confidence.  Jerry chose teamwork over his own personal ambition.  Very few can set that aside for the team and it explains the success that he garnered in his lifetime.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Fiercely Independent but a Team Player

  1. Shawn C. Stolarz

    I’ve heard many stories about in my lifetime that showed me what failed leadership looked like. I know that is one of the themes here at but I want to confirm that it is so true that if you cannot be both independent and a team player – at the same time – you will not perform well in the long run. Don’t know how? There are plenty of resources through coaches and mentors. Just take advantage of them by asking.

  2. Drew Dill

    In my workplace, there was recently a debate on this very subject. Most of us argued that indep & team player were mutually exclusive. Cathy, a new team member, was the only one who said she thought they were compatible. We just laughed that day at her. Turns out, she was right.

    1. Drew Dill

      Yes and like in any bureaucracy, we gave her more responsibility for the outcome of the team’s effort. She readily accepted.

  3. Dale Paul Fox

    Well said. This is a serious topic and too many of my friends, unfortunately, ignore the advice given here that you can have BOTH independence and be a great team player. Thanks for reinforcing what I’ve been saying for a long time. Well done.

  4. Eric Coda

    “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie
    Couldn’t have said it better.

    1. Scotty Bush

      Another great basketball coach quote:
      “To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.” by Mike Krzyzewski

  5. Nick Lighthouse

    There have been times in my life that I wondered whether this was true or not. I couldn’t jell that in my mind. Thank you, Gen. Satterfield, for helping me sort through it. 🙂

  6. Dennis Mathes

    Some people may be clueless about this but those who’ve been leaders know that you must have both to be a great leader. A little hard work, honesty, and selflessness are factors that are the grease that makes the wheels of independence and team player work together well.

  7. Lynn Pitts

    In the US Marines, they expect both of you also. I believe, however, they more value the team player part.

  8. Ronny Fisher

    Thanks for an article on a subject dear to my heart. When I first became a team leader at work, I preached the same ideas. Good to see confirmation here and others agreeing.

  9. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    Some people will consider these two ideas to be completely contradictory. Thanks for showing that not only is this incorrect but that both being independent and a team player go together well. I always thought so but my boss at work seems to think otherwise.

  10. Army Captain

    Being a team player is a BIG DEAL that too many young folks overlook. If you are not a part of the team in any organization or group, you will shortly find yourself on the outside looking in and wondering what happened.

    1. Anita

      I’m happy to see you confirming this point and noting that there are many who cannot see it for the importance we know exists.


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