The Captain Class

The Captain Class

The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams

Book - 2017
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"The former global sports editor of The Wall Street Journal profiles the greatest teams in history and identifies the counterintuitive leadership qualities of the unconventional men and women who drove them to succeed. The secret to winning is not what you think it is. It's not the coach. It's not the star. It's not money. It's not a strategy. It's something else entirely. Several years ago, Sam Walker set out to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in sports: What are the greatest teams of all time? He devised a formula, then applied it to thousands of teams from leagues all over the world, from the NBA to the English Premier League to Olympic field hockey. When he was done, he had a list of the sixteen most dominant teams in history. At that point, he became obsessed with another, more complicated question: What did 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. Fueled by a lifetime of sports spectating, twenty years of reporting, and a decade of painstaking research, The Captain Class tells the surprising story of what makes teams exceptional. Drawing on original interviews with athletes from two dozen countries, as well as general managers, coaches, executives, and others skilled at building teams, Walker identifies the seven core qualities of this Captain Class--from extreme doggedness and emotional control to a knack for nonverbal communication to tactical aggression and the courage to stand apart. Told through riveting accounts of some of the most pressure-soaked moments in sports history--from Bill Russell's legendary "Coleman Play" in the 1957 NBA Finals to Barcelona's "Figo Game" against Real Madrid in 2000--The Captain Class doesn't just bring these events to life; it presents a fresh, counterintuitive take on leadership that can be applied to a wide spectrum of competitive disciplines. The men and women who make up the Captain Class were never the most skilled athletes, nor were they gifted orators or paragons of sportsmanship. They were often role players who were allergic to the spotlight. In short, the seven attributes they shared challenge your assumptions of what inspired leadership looks like. Advance praise for The Captain Class "Well-researched, wildly entertaining, and thought-provoking. InThe Captain Class, Sam Walker presents compelling narratives about the secret ingredient to the greatest teams of all time--and quickly makes you reexamine long-held beliefs about leadership and the glue that binds winning teams together."--Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs "In The Captain Class, Sam Walker gives us important and original insights into the mysterious ingredients of transformative leadership. A stunning mix of research and narrative."--Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet "If you care about leadership, talent development, or the art of competition, you need to read this immediately."--Daniel Coyle, bestselling author of The Talent Code "The Captain Class is a brilliant hybrid: one-part detective story and one-part leadership book, set in the world of sports, and dedicated to a fascinating mystery: What sets apart the greatest teams of all time? I'm not even a sports nut and I couldn't put it down."--Dan Heath, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Made to Stick"--
"Walker starts with one of the most hotly debated questions in sports: What are the greatest teams ever--particularly those that sustained success over a long period of time. He devised a formula to compare the achievements of teams from leagues all over the world, and after painstakingly profiling thousands of them, produced a comprehensive, unbiased list of the 16 best. Period. At that point, Walker became obsessed with another, more complicated question: What did these teams have in common? A genius coach? A transcendent superstar? A groundbreaking system? Or was it all a matter of chemistry? A surprising pattern emerged: There was a very specific kind of leader at the center of these teams, a force that drove them to greatness, and they all shared eight specific characteristics. Who they are, who they are not, and the traits they shared will fascinate anyone who follows sports or is interested in building a team -- and winning. Told through riveting stories of some of the most compelling and pressure-soaked moments in sports history, Walker not only brings these uncommon leaders to life, he presents a counterintuitive view of leadership--one that can apply to a wide spectrum of competitive disciplines, particularly business"--
Publisher: New York :, Random House,, 2017.
ISBN: 9780812997194
0812997190
Branch Call Number: 796.077 Walker 05/2017
Characteristics: xvii, 332 pages ;,25 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

What makes great sports teams great? 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, functiona... Read More »

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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 wit... Read More »


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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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