There is no "I" in a team.
I have heard that so many times now that it has started to lose its charm.
Literally, the letter "I" does not form a part of the word "Team". That is correct.
What I do not agree with is the figurative meaning of the missing "I". The phrase suggests that constituents of a team should not hold on to their individual aspirations and work solely towards the benefit of their team.
Do not get me wrong. I love being a part of my team, but that fact should not stop anyone from doing what is best for themselves. Also, the limitations of a team should not inhibit individual extra-ordinariness.
True teamwork happens when individuals compliment each other and become good cohesively. Take for example someone that is great at software development but has a hard time giving a presentation. An environment that fosters teamwork can help the person remove that weakness. The weakness or the strength, however, still belongs to the individual. Hence the removal of such a weakness is also the person's responsibility. A team can only provide the right tools for us to get better. True teams allow for individual growth, for aspirations and ambitions to flourish based on a very simple notion:
What you do should be good for you AND the team that you belong to.
An individual with the right combination of intent and intelligence can take a team to very high levels of success. They can also make sure that the other "I"'s of the team do not feel an obligation to tow the team line.
In the absence of such diversity, where individual capabilities, ideas and aspirations do not hold significance to others, success cannot flourish. For us to take the road from good to great, we must be ready to break rules, stereotypes and status-quo. And for that to happen, the "I" in the team has to take the road less traveled and make an appearance.
Think about Apple. You cannot but picture the greatness of Steve Jobs. Take Microsoft for an example, but try to think about it without Bill Gates. Or an India without Gandhi or an America without Martin Luther King or a South Africa without Mandela. These individuals provided teams and organizations and nations an opportunity to be great. Part of a team, yes, but individually mighty!