My oldest son and I are really enjoying the book, The Captain Class by Sam Walker. He examines the 16 most elite sports teams of history (across team sports with at least 5 players) in order to try to determine what makes these teams the greatest of all time. He was shocked to discover that it was not consistently any of the following expected factors: good coaching, presence of a greatest of all time individual player, the overall team talent, the financial resources of the team or team management/owners. The one factor that was consistent across all of these elite teams during their years of greatness was the presence of a leader/captain of strong character. It seemed like an unlikely conclusion, especially since the captains of these elite teams didn’t fit the normal profile of exemplary leaders:
- They lacked superstar talent.
- They weren’t fond of the spotlight.
- They didn’t “lead” in the traditional sense.
- They were not angels.
- They did potentially divisive things.
- They weren’t the usual suspects.
- Nobody had ever mentioned this theory.
- The captain isn’t the primary leader (the coach or manager is).
After studying these 16 captains (Bill Russell was one of them, hence the pictures above), he discovered that there were seven important traits that they shared in common:
- Extreme doggedness and focus in competition.
- Aggressive play that tests the limits of the rules.
- A willingness to do thankless jobs in the shadows.
- A low-key, practical, and democratic communication style.
- Motivates others with passionate nonverbal displays.
- Strong convictions and the courage to stand apart.
- Ironclad emotional support.
In the remainder of the book, the author is going to explore these different traits. As I have been reviewing this list, I’ve been thinking a lot about how these traits might also be present in the leaders of the best businesses, churches and families. I really want to explore that idea more and how those of us who want to lead our families, churches and organizations with a high level of excellence and success might be able to work on growing in these traits. Interesting…