3 Lessons About Teamwork We Can Learn From American Horror Story: Coven

American Horror Story is an anthology TV series that explores life in different types of “haunted houses” in American culture. The first season took place in a home with a dark history, the next season in an insane asylum and now, in the third season, it’s in a witch coven in New Orleans.

Over three hundred years have passed since the Salem witch trials and only a few powerful witches are left. Under attack by unknown forces and facing extinction, the young girls in the coven are left to defend themselves, but they must function as a team or face devastation, much like life in the business world. But what makes for a great team and what can a television show possibly teach us about that?

Let’s check it out, witches!

Lesson #1: Have a strong leader

This one seems like a no-brainer, but without a great leader, the team isn’t going anywhere. Someone needs to have vision and an understanding of all the moving parts so that the team sticks together and works efficiently. In the coven, that leader should be The Supreme witch, Fiona. She’s not very good at it though as she’s distracted by her secret battle with cancer, which is leaving her depleted and her powers diminished. The other option is Cordelia, Fiona’s daughter, but she is also too distracted to take a strong leadership role.

The girls at the coven are very much on their own. They’re reduced to simply reacting to situations that arise instead of having someone with foresight and wisdom to guide them toward the bigger picture. This is not a sustainable situation, but perhaps there’s still hope that Cordelia will find some strength and take control.

Lesson #2: There’s no “I” in team

Often, it’s not a bad thing to have a strong ego. If you’re in sales, it can actually be a really good thing!  But in general, for a team to function well, folks have to check their egos at the door and do what’s for the good of the team and their collective goals. Backbiting and plotting against one another will only end in disaster.

Here’s another way that our Supreme witch, Fiona, has failed. Sensing her diminishing powers, she identified Madison, one of the young witches in the coven, as the next Supreme. Fiona’s weakening powers seem to be transferring to the new Supreme as Madison seems to be gaining strength as Fiona loses hers. Fearing the loss of her status as Supreme, Fiona kills Madison. Doing this means that she eliminated a very powerful member of the coven, leaving them down by one—a bad idea since they’re so vulnerable.

Lesson # 3: Have clearly defined roles

Leaders need to identify the specific talents of every individual on the team and make sure they’re assigned a role that fits that talent. Without that, team members may wind up doing things that don’t make the most use of their skills, wasting time and energy.

All the young witches in the coven have specific talents: Nan is clairvoyant, Zoe is great with spells, Queenie is a human voodoo doll, and Madison has psychokinetic powers. Right now, nobody’s talents are being used for the good of the coven. Instead, it’s every witch for herself as the girls use their magic to advance their own agendas. If these powers were coordinated and their talents organized, they would be unstoppable against the forces that threaten them.

Clearly the big key to great teamwork is having strong leadership. Leaders need to help organize, define roles and keep egos in check—even if it’s their own ego that needs to be left at the door!  Without these things in place, disaster awaits. As far as the ladies in the coven are concerned, there’s some indication that Cordelia will take control and organize the girls. Hopefully they’ll be able to work as a team before it’s too late and the coven is destroyed!

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