Great teams need great role players.

by | May 6, 2019

Great teams need great role players.

Those grounded individuals, who in developing their ‘game’, focus their personal efforts on how they become a better teammate.

They understand their shortcomings but have the personal insight and humility to build a game almost in response to, and despite of, their weaknesses.

These are rare characteristics, and worth their weight in gold.

Great role players appreciate the strengths of others, but they do not resent their talent; they seek to amplify it, understanding their own efforts will often go unseen as a result. Rare will be the public recognition that will be reserved for their higher-profile teammates, and they are fine with that.

They know only one player can kick the goal, but it is a team that scores it.

Great role players are lifetime learners, understanding they must remain ahead of the game, never taking their role in the team for granted. Not only do they have an appetite for learning, but they also have an equally intense hunger for application. As a result, their most powerful influence is as a role model, as the combination of attitude, ethos and humility is contagious.

While the star players can inspire, lift the team in the moment with acts of brilliance, it is the role player who is more likely to shift the team culture through the consistency of their behaviours, setting a standard, exemplifying the attitude of team above self.

For the role player, it’s not about being the best at something in the game…it’s about being the best at something for the team.

My favourite role player in the AFL, and perhaps my favourite player overall, is Richmond midfielder Shane Edwards. He exemplifies all of the values I have articulated, and while he is a talented player, he has become so much more in a team of far more profiled individuals, improving every year of his long and mostly unsung career. My guess, he would be a favourite teammate of those big-name players and loved by his coaches.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to identify and develop the role players, a highly underestimated aspect of leadership.

It starts with recruiting, not sacrificing culture for talent, and being steadfast in hiring individuals with a track record of self-responsibility for personal development.

And if you get it wrong, and you will, being prepared to make a quick call, and as the legendary coach, Allan Jeans would say…

“Your first loss is your best loss”.

Beyond recruiting, valuing and encouraging the importance of the role player must form part of your systems and symbols, roles and routines.

Your attitude to the notion of ‘role player’ will also say so much about you as a leader, what you really value, the behaviours you reward, building trust, as well as your personal commitment to establishing a sustainable team ethos.

You simply cannot be a great organisation without great role players.

I always enjoy the opportunity to talk all things culture and high-performance, and the development of leaders to achieve it.

Here are three ways to start the ball rolling:

  • I teach and coach an integrated leadership performance system utilising sophisticated learning models and systems garnered from elite team sport, ideal for leaders who are committed learners, who understand the responsibility of leadership. To learn more, please arrange your FOC 30-minute leadership telephone consult to discuss your personal, team or organisational challenges or aspirations, please use this link.
  • Participate in our next one-day Leadership Masterclass which I personally facilitate. It is a sophisticated, intimate and practical leadership intensive for aspirational leaders, both current and emerging. To learn more, and to register, please use this link.
  • Sign up for the “More to the Game” weekly email, and receive a copy of my “What business can learn from football” White Paper. The emails are short leadership reflections, no more than a couple of minutes to read and we will always treat our communication with respect. Please use this link.

You can also contact me at and let me know how you think we can work together.

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


Recent Posts


We are based at Work Club
Level 2, 287 Collins Street,
Melbourne, Vic. 3000.



+61(0)411 860 931