Dream Teams in History

Last Updated Jan 31, 2008 6:40 PM EST

In the opening speech to the movie, "Patton," George C. Scott, playing the title role of General Patton, exhorts his troops, saying, "An army is a team. It eats, sleeps, fights, as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday evening post don't know anything more about real battle than they do about f@%#!(^*ing!"

Maybe so. But, as Jeffrey Palfini amply deonstrates in our recent BNET feature, Build a Dream Team, it takes different and sometimes clashing personalities to create group of people who can get a job done. History is itself rife with such teams. Here are just a few topsy-turvy teams who turned daunting diversity into historic successes.

The Founding Fathers Talk about "cobbling together." These periwigged chaps cobbled together a whole nation out of thirteen semi-autonomous colonies of Britain whose only thing in common was that each had once been a semi-autonomous colony of Britain. Some feat, that. Jefferson provided the thought leadership, Franklin the PR savvy and Washington the gravitas and military smarts. They didn't always see eye-to-eye, but they got the job done, and how.

Napoleon and Josephine Talk about a power couple. Bill and Hil have nothing on Napoleon and Josephine. While the little guy with the big hat was out marching his vast armies into Austrian, Russian and English canon fire â€" and spreading republican ideals across Europe in the process â€" Josephine spent her time cultivating "soft power" back in Paris. It was an irresistible duo-- while it lasted. Note to self: No team lasts forever.

Gilbert and Sullivan The authors of "H.M.S. Pinafore," "The Pirates of Penzance," "Yeoman of the Guard", and "The Mikado" could not have been more different. Librettist W.S. Gilbert was an uptight, phlegmatic home-body while Arthur Sullivan was an out-and-out bon vivant with a roving eye for the ladies. Gilbert kept the stories and the lyrics simple and down-to-earth while Sullivan provided the catchy but always original tunes. Both came away somewhat unsatisfied in their careers, but who cares? It was their collaboration that history remembers and that's what counts.

Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance Ernest Schackleton and his intrepid crew set out on their ship, the Endurance, to explore Antarctica in 1914. Before they reached the continent, however, their ship was hopelessly stuck in ice and eventually broke a part. Shackleton and his crew spent the better part of two years trying to survive and get back to civilization, enduring (no pun) bitter cold, starvation and mutiny along the way. But thanks to Shackleton's strong leadership, every man-jack of the Endurance's crew made it back to safety. Talk about the "you" in team. Schackleton was it. (Of course, it helps having an innate sense of timing, like knowing just when to shoot and eat the sled dogs.)

For more on the great, combative teams in history, check out some of Palfini's previous posts in The You in Team:

Lessons from the Challenger Disaster
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