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Seven Traits of Elite Captains

The secret to winning is not what you think it is. It’s not the coach. It’s not the star. It’s not the money. It’s not a strategy. It’s something else entirely.

Several years ago, Sam Walker set out to answer one of the most debated questions in sports: What are the greatest teams of all time? And, what do these freak teams have in common? As Walker dug into their stories, a pattern emerged: Each team had the same type of captain – a singular leader with an unconventional skill set who drove it to achieve sustained, historic greatness.

What he discovered after digging into biographies, interviews and video footage was that their behaviours and beliefs all lined up. The impulsive, reckless, and putatively self-defeating behaviour they exhibited was, in fact, calculated to fortify the team. They shared the following seven traits:

  1. Extreme doggedness and focus in competition
  2. Aggressive play that tests the limits of the rules
  3. A willingness to do thankless jobs in the shadows
  4. A low-key, practical, and democratic communication style
  5. Motivates others with passionate nonverbal displays
  6. Strong convictions and the courage to stand apart
  7. Ironclad emotional control

Leaders are made, they are not born – Vince Lombardi

If we approach this from a team dynamics and assembling a team intelligently, putting all the pieces together so there seems to be no competitive weakness leadership still matters. In a time when the hierarchy is flattening and captaincy is falling out of favour, in these winning teams, it was the common denominator. The captains are like the verb in a sentence.

The verb may not be as memorable as the nouns, as evocative as the adjectives, or as expressive as the punctuations. But it’s the vern that does the yeoman’s work – unifying the disparate parts and creating the forward momentum. – Sam Walker

So, how do you pick a great leader? Richard Hackman, spent decades observing teams of all kinds focusing his attention on how their preparations and processes affected their outcomes. He was able to piece together the outline of a theory which consisted of four principles:

  1. Effective leaders know some things
  2. Effective leaders know how to do some things
  3. Effective leaders should be emotionally mature
  4. Effective leaders need a measure of personal courage

To learn more about The Captain Class order the book here.

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