Friday, March 20, 2009

On A Team, No One Person Is More Important Than Any Other

For over 15 years, I spent a lot of my time, alone in the cockpit of an FA-18 (including over 40 missions in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11). There is nothing better for the ego of a true "Type A" personality than to think that success (or failure) all comes down to him - and no one else.

This is what I thought for the first couple of years of my career. That is until I opened my eyes and faced reality that nothing I did was entirely about me. It was about a team of thousands working together to achieve something bigger than anyone person could do alone. From the Sailor that loaded the bombs on the airplane to the one that launched me into the sky. From the cooks who served us all breakfast to those that ran the engines in the bowels of the ship keeping ship steaming forward - no matter what. Everyone on the team contributed directly to the effort. Everyone was needed to put that bomb on target, at the precise time. And it was this realization that although I could have "personal" success, if it didn't also contribute to team success - to the Vision of the unit, it was worthless.

Sure, I might have been the one who delivered the explosive package to the doorstep of our enemy - and the one who "got the glory". But I was only the last link in a long supply / manufacturing chain that delivered the will of the People of the United States. And chains aren't made up of one link. What good would that be, regardless of how big that one link is? It has no flexibility. And any great stress to a single link will break much easier than when that link is supported by other links.

So a good chain is made up of hundreds, if not thousands of links, each contributing the overall strength of the chain. That's Teamwork. If any link in the chain breaks, the whole chain fails.

Personal success is a wonderful thing, but true greatness of purpose comes from being part of something bigger than yourself.

It doesn't matter whether you are the first link in the chain, leading the way or the last link - at the lowest level of an organization. Every link matters - just as much as the next. The key is to build a strong chain and make sure that if you see one link beginning to absorb more of the stress than the rest - support it. Because remember if that one link fails - so does the whole chain - and so do YOU.


  1. ...Teamwork. If any link in the chain breaks, the whole chain fails.
    This post was fantastic! Thanks - such a great reminder that we can't make things happen alone - its takes a TEAM!

  2. JJ, way to put it out there and make people think. Excellent Post Sir. I really enjoyed it, and thoughts like these keep everyone on point who needs to be. kind of like a rising tide floats all ships.

  3. "Personal success is a wonderful thing, but true greatness of purpose comes from being part of something bigger than yourself." So True! Great job of pointing out how very large the chain can be for what seems at the moment to be so easily available without much effort.

  4. when ohn F Kenendy was visisting NASA he went up to a women who was a janitor and as her what she did. She replied Mr. President I help put people on the moon.

  5. Wendy, Robert, Shannon and Jan,

    Thank You all for your comments. They are invaluable additions.

    I'm very moved that I am able to connect with something that I'm so very passionate about.