Is it worth hiring a star instead of a team player?

Is it worth hiring a star instead of a team player?
Photo by Ivan Akimenko / Unsplash

by Alvin Tanicala, MHA, RHIT

Forgive the vulgarity, but this is for emphasis.

“Who is the a**hole?”

Simon Sinek (2019) illustrates a very simple way to differentiate a star player and a team player. Sinek identifies two traits: Performance vs Trust.  Using his experience with the Navy’s Special Warfare Command (more popularly known as the SEALs) he shares what the members of this top tiered team do .  He asked the members of the teams what is more important–being a top performer or being a trusted member of the team.  Sinek found that there is an abundance of high performers, but trustworthiness may be lacking.  This applies to any organization as well. His question “who is the a**whole?” simplifies the identification of a star player that may not be a team player.

We can consider a top performer a star player, but sometimes at the expense of the team. A trustworthy leader is a person who believes the best in people (Kay, 2015). A star player is one is the most important individual in the team.

Would I hire a star player?  Only if his mindset is leaning towards teamwork and less of a solo player.  If he values collaboration and appreciation and thinks more about moving forward as a whole (not the other word).  

An African proverb can best summarize this - “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Team Cohesion

Team cohesion starts with the individual’s interpersonal skills.  It is this interpersonal bond that causes members to participate readily and remain motivated to accomplish the set goals ("Team Cohesion - Overview, Examples, Strategies for Team Bonding", n.d.) .

To coalesce, a team member must have a “buy-in” in the organization and the goals.


Rudeness at work is rampant, and it’s on the rise (Porath & Pearson, 2013).  Rudeness is one type of workplace incivility and, according to a study (Taylor et al., 2018) it was found that 69% of employees reported experiencing some incivility.  Another study cited that 98% who were asked experienced uncivility at the workplace (Porath & Pearson, 2013)

I will not hire a prima donna no matter how high his or her performance levels are.  According to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz  (2018) , “Business is a team sport” and ““Success is best when it’s shared.”

A Team Player's Star

NBA's LeBron James is considered a star player, but he values team play as well.  In a discussion. In a post Heimann (2018) analyzed James’ performance when they played against the Boston Celtics.  He said:

You’re really going to suggest that one of the smartest and most willing passers in NBA history - a player who has historically been accused of being unselfish to a fault and too willing to defer to inferior teammates, mind you - was not being a “team player”, after a game where he had a triple-double?

Cleveland scored 94 points. James scored 42 of them himself (44.6%) and his 12 assists led to 29 more points, meaning a total of 71 points were directly generated by LeBron James (75.5% of Cleveland’s total points). Outside of Lebron, though, the Cavaliers shot 21/51 (41.1%, which is mediocre or sub-par at best) and just 5/20 from three (25.0%, which is awful). If anything, Lebron needed to be less of a team player. There were multiple possessions where he stood on the wing while J.R. Smith (0–7 on the night) dribbled futilely for a significant portion of the shot clock and hoisted a wild shot.

Lebron James is a consummate team player and was so again last night. The problem was his team didn’t show up to play.

This is the challenge of having a true star player. Sometimes their performance still eclipses that of the team.  But if there is more than one star player in a team and they have the drive to dominate the other, in the name of “friendly competition”, they are liable to have clashes with each other.

Roger Sherman (2016) reports that NBA super players are after winning or a championship and if they achieve this level, they leave their current team and look for other super-teams.

Michael Jordan said it best, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships