More of a team player?

Are you a leader or a follower?

Today’s prompt

I think this is an interesting question to consider asking yourself. However, I do believe it’s not strongly either-or in many cases. In any case I think there are some intermediaries where many people feel comfortable and even thrive.

I used to think of myself as a team player, arguably one of the possible layers in between. My role in previous teams were not necessarily leading, certainly not always following, but a well-oiled team machine that thrived by lateral exchange and mutual support. I loved that. That was a place where I felt very comfortable.

I’m not a follower, and I’ve never been, even when I was young. I had the habit of coming up with more efficient ways to do things at many of my summer jobs, to the great annoyance of my bosses. It didn’t matter that my method was faster, better, or less energy-consuming. They were my seniors and they toldtme to somit a certain way. I learned the hard way that I’m not the follower type. To this day, I’m still very bad at following particular orders, especially if they are very inefficient by design. Much better to tell me the desired goal, and I’ll figure out the most efficient way to do it, without reinventing of wheels.

Am I a leader? I never saw myself as such, and it is not something I aspired to be. But I’ve always been a guy with many ideas and thoughts on how to best execute them (makes sense with the section above, huh?). I always thought of this in the ‘lone wolf’ kind of way. I’ve always ‘led’ things, but I was usually alone in it. I always had projects, hobbies and interests where I sort of overachieved. In my youth I never had a pack, and even with my friends I was always the odd one out. Couldn’t I just enjoy football like the rest of them? I was alone with all of it. Always. I’ve only recently learned that some people have brains that are wired differently like that, and it suddenly all made sense. But when you’re always alone with your ideas, it’s not exactly the place where you will consider yourself a leader. In fact, I alwatfelt like a misfit and a bit of a loser. I lost more confidence than I gained through most of these experiences. So when I found my pack, or packs, during various times in my university years, or whilst obtaining my PhD, I suddenly didn’t feel lonely or odd any more. I could actually be a team player, and a successful one at that. My academic trajectory started with a team. But then I was more or less catapulted into a junior leader position. I never thought I’d get it when I applied. It was just one of many applications… And now, several years in, I’m mentoring several PhD students, master students, and other people that seem to feel comfortable under my wings. I think I’m doing alright. Yet, I am not sure if I’m a good leader. Perhaps we’re doing well because I’m a good team player? Or maybe that’s the secret to being a good leader, it is being a good team player?

Let’s call it that. I’m more of a team player. Whatever you make of that.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

2 thoughts on “More of a team player?

    1. I agree. Being dynamic and adaptable is probably a much more valuable trait than being a good leader or a follower. (Most people who truly consider themselves good leaders are questionable at best 😂).


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