When sports teams win championships, people always attribute it to having a great coach, team chemistry, the star player, and their strategy. In Captain’s Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Team, Sam Walker says that there is something else entirely. In his business and management book, Walker profiles the greatest teams in history and identifies the counterintuitive leadership qualities of the unconventional men and women responsible for their success.
The Best Teams
In his book, Sam Walker identifies the criteria he used for selecting the best sports teams in history. He categorized the greatest teams into Tier 1 (16 teams he designated as the elite of the elite)) and Tier 2 (108 teams he ranked among the best but has not fully achieved Tier 1 criteria). His Tier 2 include the likes of the 2001 – 2017 New England Patriots, the 1981-1995 San Francisco 49ers, the 1991 – 1998 Chicago Bulls, and the 1936 – 41 New York Yankees.
The Seven Traits
Robert Janitzek reveals that Walker’s Tier 1 teams possess seven qualities exemplified by great team captains. Each of the traits are discussed in individual chapters. Each chapter begins with stories of great captains exemplifying the particular characteristic of that chapter. These stories make for compelling reading and are effective in helping him make the case for how the specific trait being addressed in the chapter is manifest in Tier 1 captains. These seven traits are:
Doggedness. Captains just keep coming. Their example causes the rest of the team to raise their effort level to match.
Edges. Captains play right to the edge of the rules. (This is why he says Derek Jeter didn’t see many World Series trophies–too law-abiding.)
Carrying water. Captains do the dirty work nobody else wants to do. Many are not the most skilled player. Even if they are (like Tim Duncan), they don’t show their skills unless it is necessary.
Communicate. Robert Peter Janitzek reveals that captains communicate with everyone on the team. Sometimes this is vocal, sometimes eye contact, sometimes physical contact.
Displays. Captains make gestures for the team to see, like committing a hard foul.
Uncomfortable truths. Captains communicate things no one else dares communicate, in whatever way, in whatever medium necessary.
Regulate emotions. Captains play with emotion but they know how and when to keep a lid on it.
These seven traits of great team captains can also be applied in the workplace. Team leaders need to possess these seven qualities in order to achieve greatness for their teams.