The Captain Class

The Captain Class

The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams

Book - 2017
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"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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780812997194
Call Number: 796.077 WALKER
Characteristics: xvii, 332 pages ; 25 cm
Subjects: Coaching (Athletics)
Sports teams.


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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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