Seven Characteristics of an Unselfish Team Player

Are You A Team Player



Casey Stengel made a comment about the challenge of managing a professional baseball team. His observation applies to life in general. He said, “It’s easy to get good players. Getting’ em to play together, that’s the hard part.”

Each of us faces that issue whether it is on our job or in organizations that we may be giving service to in being a volunteer. Every good leader has to at some point has to ask these questions: “How do I blend my abilities and talents with those of other people?” How do I cooperate with others so we can reach our goal? These questions applies to business, to family life and certainly to our walk with God.

casey stengal

There are individual sports and team sports. Wrestling, boxing and golf are individual sports. You’re on your own! Basketball, baseball and football are team sports. You’re only as successful as the team is. Christianity, and life really, are team sports. The key to success is knowing how to work with others.

In 2008 I moved to a new community and became the Defensive Coordinator for a Junior Varsity Team that went 9-1. This group of young men were an amazing group of student-athletes that if you looked at the demographics of the team so many of them lived in some challenging situations in their families. The rallying cry that assisted us as a coaching staff to build a winning culture was this statement: “If we Love each other Enough Not to Let Each Other Down – We Will Win!”  Prior to our games our players would stand up and face their teammates sharing their hearts and many with tears in their eyes would communicate how much they loved their teammates. By the way – I have found that it is this same heartfelt passion that energizes the teams that I have led in both the business context and in the church.

Pride and selfishness hinder a team from being successful. Jesus instructed everyone, even leaders, to lay aside pride and live to serve others. The Apostle Paul understood the value of working effectively with others. He emphasized teamwork because he knew that we could only reach our goals through mutual effort.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Jesus wants His disciples to model unselfishness in any role that they should be performing. During the 1964 Olympics, in the two-man bobsled competition, a British team driven by Tony Nash had just completed its first run and was in second place. Then they made a most disheartening discovery. They had broken a bolt on the rear axle of their sled, which would put them out of the competition.

Eugenio Monti

The great Italian bobsled driver Eugenio Monti, who was in first place, heard of their plight. He removed the bolt from the rear axle of his own sled and sent it to them. The British team placed it on their sled and then raced down the mountain, winning the gold medal. Monti’s Italian team took the bronze medal for finishing in third place.

When asked about his act of sportsmanship, Eugenio Monti modestly replied, “Tony Nash did not win because I gave him a bolt. Tony Nash won because he was the best driver.”

Because of his unselfishness, Monti was given the first De Coubertin Medal for sportsmanship. The award, named after the founder of the modern Olympics, is one of the highest honors an Olympian can receive.

God honors unselfishness. It is the only attitude that will make us winners in the end. As Casey Stengel demonstrated with the New York Yankees, championships are won when individuals play together. It works for every context in life.

Some of the Characteristics of an Unselfish Team Player is:

  1. Always reliable.A great team player is constantly reliable day in and day out, not just some of the time. You can count on them to get the job done, meet deadlines, keep their word and provide consistent quality work. With excellent performance, organization and follow-through on tasks they develop positive relationships with team members and keep the team on track.
  1. Communicates with confidence.A good team player might silently get the work done but may shy away from speaking up and speaking often. Great team players communicate their ideas honestly and clearly and respect the views and opinions of others on the team. Clear, effective communication done constructively and respectfully is the key to getting heard.
  1. Does more than asked.While getting the work done and doing your fair share is expected of good team players, great team players know that taking risks, stepping outside their comfort zones, and coming up with creative ideas is what it’ll take to get ahead. Taking on more responsibilities and extra initiative sets them apart from others on the team.
  1. Adapts quickly and easily.Great team players don’t passively sit on the sideline and see change happen; they adapt to changing situations and often drive positive change themselves. They don’t get stressed or complain but are flexible in finding their feet in whatever is thrown their way.
  1. Displays genuine commitment.Good team players are happy to work 9-5 and receive their paycheck at the end of the month. Great team players take the time to make positive relationships with other team members a priority and display a genuine passion and commitment toward their team. They come to work with the commitment of giving it 110% and expect others on the team to do the same. This commitment is seen that when they fail they take personal responsibility for their performance and do not blame shift on other members of the team. Criticism and critique is never communicated to other members of the team but instead in a constructive respectful way they communicate directly to the team member. A great team player never withholds the best of who they are for the success of the team.
  1. Focuses on the success of the team. Great team players are not insecure in such a way that they compete in unhealthy ways with their fellow teammates but instead a great team player finds way that they can take the best of who they are and find ways they can complement the strengths of other members of the team. They will find ways to affirm and celebrate the “wins” that members of the team are experiencing.
  1. They function as part of the team understanding the difference between Humility and Humiliation. In my thirty-five years of team-leadership I have seen how a leader’s confusion with these two characteristics can impact the morale of a team. Strong leaders who are unselfish and function in genuine humility understand humility, its value, and use it well. Their emotional intelligence, not their directive strength, secures their leadership identity. They are comfortable with employee engagement for they see leaders and teams as interdependent.[1] Humiliation, a loss of dignity and respect, is more likely to occur when leaders lack humility. Acting important and treating others with disregard creates disrespect in return. Constantly issuing orders can create a virtual mutiny which blocks success – a pretty humiliating event for organizational leaders.[2] The unselfish leader who is humble gives opportunity for the leaders around him or her to achieve their maximum potential by creating an inclusive team environment.

When you combine humility, and a heart that is shaped to genuinely care for people with emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and proficient people-skills, the respect for your leadership soars.

You inspire all generations in any organization to maximum contribution by fulfilling the most human need — to be included, recognized, acknowledged, and appreciated.

Please read the list and offer any comments that you may have for me. I would be very interested in hearing how did a leader in your journey modeled these characteristics and how did they impact you?

[1] Kate Nasser, Leadership: Never Confuse Humility and Humiliation. :


[2] Ibid, Kate Nasser.

About PastorAl

Al Soto has been married to his incredible wife Valerie for 30 years and they have five sons and one grandson. Al has been in Local Church Ministry for 35 years as both as a Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and for five years as a Regional Overseer for his denomination. He has a BA degree from LIFE Pacific College and is currently completing an MA in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Vanguard University. He currently resides in Lincoln, CA where he is the new Lead Pastor for one of the Campus locations for Bayside Church. He continues to coach High School Football for the Lincoln Fighting Zebras for the Junior Varsity Program and is facilitating Leadership training and coaching as well as facilitating Spiritual Retreats. His hobbies include Golfing and Scuba Diving as well as he is a veracious reader. His Life Statement is “Real Success is Helping others to Succeed!”
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