The “I” in Team

by Sandy Nelson on February 10, 2015

Yes, of course I know that we all like to say that there is no “I” in team. But, let’s get real here.

Teams, like the organizations they represent, are collaborative social networks of individuals focused on a shared mission. For a team to perform at a world class level, so must the individuals that collectively comprise the team.

By the same token, teams that operate below peak do so because individual team members fail to step up to the plate at the level required by bringing the full force of their focus and creativity to the playing field.

The challenge in creating great teams is not to exorcize the “I” from the mix, but rather to find and bring together a group of “I’s” willing and committed to putting the best interests and success of the team first.

In the Super Bowl this year, great players worked together in disciplined collaboration to create one of the most exciting games in the history of the event. At any one time on the field, there were twenty-two “I’s” giving their all to win the big one for the team and its’ fans. A rookie, inspired by the moment and disciplined enough to prepare well, read a play and made the game winning interception at the last possible minute. Amazing!

But, let’s not forget that had the other 10 players on the Patriot’s defense not been doing their jobs, the opportunity for the interception would likely not have appeared. The team succeeded because ten “I’s” did their jobs at the highest level creating an opportunity for one to have a career moment.

Yes, when a gaggle of Geese flies, individuals take their turns in the lead and the others honk encouragement to inspire strong leadership. With this in mind we like to say, with good reason, that “we is greater than I”. But, let’s not forget that absent the “I”, there is no we.

The job of effective leadership is to inspire each “I” on the team while instilling a culture of we.


It’s All Personal: Part Two—Leadership

by Sandy Nelson on October 10, 2014

There are few endeavors more personal than leadership. High Performance Leaders come in as many packages as there are individuals. 

While there is no formula or ideal model for the high performance leader, there are common characteristics found among those who lead most effectively—vision, authenticity, sincerity, integrity and courage.



Vision, an imagined and declared intention—a story/portrait of the future compelling enough to enroll, excite, align, focus and mobilize others—can be very personal (think Steve Jobs). But, at the end of the day, for a vision to be most compelling, it much become shared.

On the other hand, authenticity, sincerity, integrity and courage are purely personal. Only I can embrace, embody and model these. 



Let’s face it, to lead is to live under a microscope. All eyes are on the leader and every move is scrutinized, analyzed and interpreted in ways that dramatically affect the mood, level of commitment, depth of engagement and ownership of results on the part of those who choose to follow.

At the foundational level, few will willingly, enthusiastically follow anyone perceived not to be authentic. To be authentic is to routinely take the risk of disclosing who you are. 

Great leaders lay themselves on the line—warts and all. To quote, to be authentic is to be “free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere”. 



Notice the inclusion of the concept of sincerity—do I mean what I say? 

If yes, I am well positioned to lead. If no, forget it. While I might retain a designated position of leadership with questionable sincerity, there is virtually no chance that others will afford me credibility. 



Sincerity and integrity—walking my talk—go hand in hand. For instance, there are many leaders capable of and practiced in saying the right thing. 

To be articulate and present oneself as having integrity is one thing, to follow through is quite another. Let there be no question in your mind about this. Acting consistent with declared intentions is a fundamental test of effective leadership. If I do, I have and model integrity and the sky is the limit. If not, noise, distraction, disaffection and misalignment abound. 



To be courageous is to act in alignment with what matters in the face of fear, ambiguity, risk and criticism. To be courageous is to rise above the fray—to dare to see the world differently, imagine possibility and go all in to capture it. 

To be courageous is to accept the reality that no new paths are blazed in the absence of second guessing, noise and attempts to distract or deter.

There will always be nay sayers. There will always be those who pull you aside to share their fears and convey negative gossip—“Did you hear? Are you aware?”

High performance leadership is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for those who claim to embrace change while holding firmly onto historic comfort zones. 

Courageous leaders knows and act consistent with what matters, steps into fear, discomfort, uncertainty and distraction while staying the course in the face of negative gossip and nay sayers. 


At the end of the day, leadership is personal. Very, very personal. 

Leadership starts at home—with me. Do I have a compelling vision that others will passionately embrace, enhance and make their own? If not, am I capable of inspiring my team to collaboratively design and put forward a vision that we can all align around?

Am I willing and self aware enough to run the risk of putting “Me” out there for all to see and assess? Do I say what I mean and walk my talk? Have I the courage to stay the course?

There is no hiding place for the High Performance Leader. If I choose the personal path of leadership, all eyes are on me. 

For the aspiring leader, the real question is this—am I all in? 

Think about it…


Sandy Nelson

October 10, 2014


It’s All Personal

September 23, 2014

Noticed my absence? Thanks, if you have! Understood, if not. Sixteen months ago my world was turned upside down. My bride and business partner decided to pursue life and career separate from me and, eventually, Aperio. Surprised, devastated, reeling in pain and obsessed with regret for all the things I wish I had done differently/better […]

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