The Captain Class

The Captain Class

The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams

Book - 2017
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A bold new theory of leadership drawn from elite captains throughout sports

Named one of the best business books of the year by CNBC, The New York Times, Forbes, strategy+business, The Globe and Mail, and Sports Illustrated

The sixteen most dominant teams in sports history had one thing in common: Each employed the same type of captain--a singular leader with an unconventional set of skills and tendencies. Drawing on original interviews with athletes, general managers, coaches, and team-building experts, Sam Walker identifies the seven core qualities of the Captain Class--from extreme doggedness and emotional control to tactical aggression and the courage to stand apart. Told through riveting accounts of pressure-soaked moments in sports history, The Captain Class will challenge your assumptions of what inspired leadership looks like.

Praise for The Captain Class

"Wildly entertaining and thought-provoking . . . makes you reexamine long-held beliefs about leadership and the glue that binds winning teams together." --Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, Chicago Cubs

"If you care about leadership, talent development, or the art of competition, you need to read this immediately." --Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code

"The insights in this book are tremendous." --Bob Myers, general manager, Golden State Warriors

"An awesome book . . . I find myself relating a lot to its portrayal of the out-of the-norm leader." --Carli Lloyd, co-captain, U.S. Soccer Women's National Team

"A great read . . . Sam Walker used data and a systems approach to reach some original and unconventional conclusions about the kinds of leaders that foster enduring success. Most business and leadership books lapse into clichés. This one is fresh." --Jeff Immelt, chairman and former CEO, General Electric

"I can't tell you how much I loved The Captain Class . It identifies something many people who've been around successful teams have felt but were never able to articulate. It has deeply affected my thoughts around how we build our culture." --Derek Falvey, chief baseball officer, Minnesota Twins
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780812997194
Branch Call Number: 796 Wal
Characteristics: xvii, 332 pages


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JCLChrisK Jul 20, 2018

This is an absolutely fascinating book.

Walker started with a question: What makes great sports teams great? He came up with a criteria and looked at the history of athletic teams to identify the most dominant dynasties of their eras. The success of the best of the best teams all coincided with the arrival and departure of a particular player who became the team's captain. The more he looked, the more he found similarities between all of those figures, until he eventually had to conclude "that the most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it."

Walker summarizes those character traits as: "Doggedness, selflessness, emotional control, principled dissent, functional leadership, and practical communication."

It is Walker's exploration of each of those traits that composes the bulk of the book and what I found most fascinating. He offers lengthy examples of each from the playing lives of the 16 elite captains. And though he remains firmly in the realm of sports, specialized knowledge is not required to understand or appreciate them. His writing is accessible and informal, focusing on what the anecdotes demonstrate rather than geeking out about the athletic feats.

One thing Walker leaves to readers is transferring the book's knowledge to non-sport contexts. It can be particularly hard at a glance to come up with parallels for non-competitive settings. Still, there is wisdom to be gleaned with reflection about leadership principles. I'm still pondering just what lessons I can take away from it.

Which is always a sign of a good book.

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