You Can’t Win Without The Right Teammates (Just Ask Matthew Stafford)

KEY IDEA: If you are a leader, that means you have followers, and they hold the secret to success.

The Super Bowl taught every leader about the importance of the supporting cast.

If you’re a leader, you probably have sensed this to be true in your church or organization.

A Key Learning From The Big Game

Personally, I didn’t care who won. Both teams brought a unique story to the contest. I’m usually in it for the story, so win-win.

The Los Angeles Rams brought a story to the championship game: Matthew Stafford.

Stafford played his college ball at UGA (Go Dawgs). At UGA, he was immensely successful, earning first-team All-American honors. Stafford was so good at quarterback that he was selected first overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft.

I suspect being selected first in the draft is exhilarating – until the reality of being chosen by the worst team in the league sets in. If you’re not a sportsball fan, understand the worst team picks first in the draft. Stafford found himself playing for last year’s worst team. 

Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions have a knack for remaining towards the bottom. Stafford played 12 seasons for one of the perennial worst NFL teams. Along the way, Stafford set multiple NFL records:

  • Fastest player to reach 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, and 45,000 career passing yards
  • Most fourth-quarter comebacks in a season: 8

You get the point. This guy is talented.

Yet, in these 12 seasons, Stafford only played in three playoff games while setting all these records. And he lost all three playoff games. So much talent and little to show from it outside of some personal awards and trophies.

Detroit traded Stafford this past off-season to the Los Angeles Rams. He and his team went 4 – 0 in the playoffs and finished with a Super Bowl win.

Think about that. This same guy spent 12 years losing and, in one single season on a new team, won it all. 

Every Organizational Game is a Team Sport

Leadership demands followership; therefore, leaders participate in a team sport.

Have you seen or worked for a leader who didn’t understand this? They led with their agenda in mind. They considered personal records, achievements, and platform their primary concern. They didn’t get very far, of course. Most likely, a board eventually removed them. Or everyone left them. 

Leadership is about missional movement through organizational success.

It takes a team working together to see the mission to fruition. It’s not all about the leader, although it demands a leader. And a group of players with varying roles and abilities.

That’s what we saw in the Super Bowl. We watched a talented leader (Matthew Stafford) finally play with a substantial and talented supporting cast. He spent 12 years playing with too much mediocrity. It only took one year to win a Super Bowl, but it required he find supportive teammates.

If you’re a leader, this is your task. Leaders must find people who complement their competencies and contribute to the culture.  

Complementary Competencies and Culture Contributions

Your organization is incomplete without a complementary team. Every leader is skilled in some areas and lacking in others. That’s obviously true for Matthew Stafford. Stafford brings dynamic skill to the quarterback position, but he’s ill-equipped to play every role. He needed a better complement of players to multiply his impact.

As you evaluate your current team or look to hire new team members, make sure you assess and interview for complementary attributes.

Specifically, you are looking to:

  1. Increase diversity of competencies.
  2. Contribute to the organizational culture.

Diversity of Competencies

You are great at some things. I am equally confident you’re not great at everything. This is why every leader needs people around them with diverse competencies, personalities, and perspectives. Diversity and inclusion (of all kinds) are critical to long-term success. Diversity brings additional ideas and viewpoints. Inclusion includes these ideas and views.

For example, let’s consider one aspect of diversity and inclusion.

If you tend to be more visionary by nature, you better surround yourself with those strong in discernment, galvanization, and strategy. If you are a natural achiever, you must add a challenger, helper, some element of perfectionist, and supporter to your inner circle.

A well-rounded team is a better team. Diversity and inclusion better round out you and the organization. 

This is not natural to do. We tend to surround ourselves with ourselves. After all, we understand ourselves and most likely like ourselves. But too much of anything (even you) is a bad thing.

Find people not like you and give them a seat at every decision-making table.

Contributing to the Culture

While you desperately need diversity of competency, the last thing you want is a dissimilarity of culture.

Culture describes “how we do it around here.” Culture defines not what we do but how we do it. In your organization, how people do what they do is massively consequential. It’s the last place you want diversity.

As you interview new candidates or consider letting a staff member go, culture must be a driving decision criterion.

As you consider how people do what they do, remember that their way isn’t wrong and your’s right. Culture can be healthy and unhealthy, but no way is the definitive “right” way. But it is your way. And your organization’s way. We reinforce the culture by adding teammates who already operate within that culture. It’s innate in them. Interview for culture. Evaluate from culture.

I’ve written a lot about culture previously. You can read more here.


A leader doesn’t make the team. A leader leads the team. Add a great leader to a poorly constructed team and you’ll set NFL passing records without winning a playoff game. Take that same leader and place them in an organization designed to be complementary, and the Super Bowl is within reach.

I don’t know what your Super Bowl might be, but I do know you’ll never reach it without a team built upon complementary competencies and culture contributors.

How can I help?

Think of me as your CSO (Chief Strategy Officer). Partnering with ministry and marketplace leaders from innovation through implementation is why I created Transformation Solutions. I’m dedicating my time to helping leaders like you discover potential problems, design strategic solutions, and deliver the preferable future. That includes you.

Go right now to and sign up for a free, 15-minute conversation to decide if working together works for you.

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