Within all types of organizations, the performance of individuals, no matter how productive, insightful, or connected to organizational goals is rarely more important or valuable over time than the performance of the team or teams that person is (or should be) a part of.
We know this intuitively by watching teams that compete at the highest levels in sports. Those teams often have a “superstar,” but the most successful teams are those in which all the players work well together to make each other better.
Talented people working in isolation often achieve quick wins (or score a goal), but on the whole, are far less valuable than even “less” talented people working well together. As Patrick Lencionci, in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team notes, there is no greater competitive advantage in organizations than teamwork. Why? Because cohesive and well functioning teams create synergies. They have a multiplying effect on the abilities of individuals within the team. They “see” things, all looking together, that individuals do not see by themselves. And most importantly, at any given moment in time, teamwork produces a multiplicity of ideas, approaches, solutions and shared actions greater than even the most capable of individuals working by themselves.
Great teams within an organization represent a competitive advantage because most organizations prioritize and value strategy, technology, operational capital, etc. over people and teams. Virtually every organization says that their people are important or “their greatest asset,” etc., but they often do not operate as if that is actually true. This reality is at least slightly culturally embedded, with institutions in the West being less relational and seeing people as more expendable, or even disposable, than those in the the Middle East and East, but in both contexts, organizations tend to see capital, technology, and strategy as more important variables for success. This reality provides a great advantage to leaders who choose to support and leverage teams for success.
As a result, while it is important as a leader to nurture individuals, and certainly to care about strategy, finance, etc., you and your organization will benefit more if you nurture the growth and efficacy of people working together.