The team is Stronger & Greater than me Alone

US Ambassador to Canada presenting the award to 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infanty for actions at Kapyong during the Korean War. A rare example of the Award being made to an Allied Unit.

In the Armed Forces of the United States there is an award known as the Presidential Unit Citation. It is a collective award given to a unit in the US military of Allied Forces that shows extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy.

The unit must display such gallantry, determination and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above the other units participating in the same campaign.’

Soldiers of a unit awarded a Presidential Unit Citation are distinguished by the right to wear the ribbon of the award above the right breast pocket of their dress uniforms.

The Unit Citation is highly unusual in recognizing collective endeavour. Virtually all honours and awards in the military recognize individual bravery, leadership or service. Napoleon once cynically quipped that ‘a solider will fight long and hard for a bit of ribbon’. There is some irony to this since fighting wars is the epitome of collective effort. Success is dependent not on the actions of one but on the actions of many, working together. Business is little different to this, yet as a society we habitually tell our stories through the emblematic actions of heroes. Our popular culture continually reinforces the image of the brilliant unconquerable individual standing undaunted against the odds and saving the day. From Hercules to Superman via the Lone Ranger the story changes little.

In the workplace the success depends on teamwork. Appraisals, incentives and awards are almost universally geared to assessing individual performance. This may make perfect sense from the perspective of the HR department but it ought to be worrisome to the board or senior leaders taking a view on what generates and sustains collective success.

 A focus on ‘I’ at the expense of ‘we’, too often allowing us to forget “we all drink from wells we did not dig & sit in the shade of trees we did not plant”.  – Adapted from Deuteronomy 6 10:12

The glory of the Presidential Unit Citation is that is recognizes teamwork, collective endeavour and commitment in the face of enormous adversity. Maybe that is something we should all think more about?


 Metris Leadership helps businesses build high performance teams, optimized for the challenges of the 21st Century because great teams provide standout competitive advantage.

To find out how we could help you contact us at

Related Posts

Crisis Leadership – Beyond Pants & Pencils

“This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a moment, it’s a twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying ‘This Is a Large Crisis’. A large crisis requires a large plan. Get me two…

Read more
Leadership & Belief (Part 1)

Boy on a high dive, Norman Rockwell, 1947 ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right’. – Henry Ford   My wife should probably have been a vet. As a child it was what she had her heart set on and knowing her as I…

Read more
Women Special Forces & The Case For Diversity

A crisis can generate a focus on what really matters. We set aside petty and irrelevant concerns, discard turf wars, prejudice and office politics in the overwhelming concern to save the ship from sinking.   Almost exactly 81-years ago, in July 1940, Britain had already had to evacuate her army…

Read more
The Red Queen’s Dilemma – Running Fast Going Nowhere

In a typically surreal moment in the story of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’, Alice finds herself with the Red Queen running as fast as she can simply to remain in the same spot. The Red Queen tells Alice, ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can…

Read more