Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a book many consider to be the first modern novel and one of the greatest literary works of all time, was published on this date in 1605.

The 400-year-old classic follows the story of Alonso Quixano, a middle-aged Spanish nobleman whose obsessive reading of chivalrous romances sends him on a delusional quest to prove his own chivalry.

Quixano adopts the name Don Quixote, outfits himself in rusty armor, mounts a scrawny horse, and recruits a plump, simple-minded peasant named Sancho Panza to serve as his squire.

In Don Quixote’s mind, his armor is pristine, his horse is gallant, and his squire is worthy. To everyone else, they are plainly anything but.

With Sancho Panza by his side, Don Quixote travels across La Mancha, a region in central Spain. He encounters a string of imaginary enemies—enchanters who are actually angry merchants, abductors who are actually monks, and, most famously, giants who are actually windmills.

In literary terms, Sancho Panza is a deuteragonist, the person second in importance to the protagonist in a drama. In layman’s terms, he’s a sidekick. His presence paved the way for the likes of Tonto, Dr. Watson, Samwise Gamgee, Chewbacca, and many others.

Sidekicks are historically revered for being good teammates. They’re known for their fierce loyalty, which, ironically, can also be their biggest flaw.

There’s a scene in Man of La Mancha, the musical based on Cervantes’ novel, where Sancho Panza is pushed on his perplexing loyalty to Don Quixote. When asked why he follows Don Quixote, the character launches into a song titled “I really like him.”

You can barbecue my nose, make a giblet of my toes
Make me freeze, make me fry
Make me sigh, make me cry
Still I’ll yell to the sky, though I can’t tell you why
That I like him!

The song illustrates the problematic, enabling nature of a sidekick’s misguided loyalty. Sidekicks can become so enamored with the protagonist that they stop telling the protagonist the truth. They stop enlightening the protagonist to blind spots and detrimental behaviors.

In essence, the sidekick’s enamorment facilitates enablement.

This situation can happen on teams when a team’s second in command (i.e., vice _____, assistant _____, deputy _____, co-_____, etc.) allows their fondness for their superior to be detrimental to the team.

To prevent enamorment from being a detriment, team members serving in a subordinate capacity should remember:

1. Loyalty above all, except honor. No worthy team leader would ever expect you to do something or allow them to do something that would jeopardize the sanctity of your team.

2. Your loyalty is to the team, not to any individual on it. You must always base your decisions on what is best for the team. The interests of the team override those of the individual.

By remaining true to these two principles, good teammates prevent their teams from dooming themselves—the ultimate responsibility of every team member.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is the founder and CEO of the Good Teammate Factory and the creator National Be a Good Teammate Day. He is a former sports coach turned bestselling author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.

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