The Captain Class

In the final days of last year, among the endless Best-of-2017-lists, a book described by the New York Times as a “well-told book about leadership, one that intelligently masquerades as a book about sports,” caught our attention.

Entitled The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams, by Sam Walker, the book was also widely praised as one of the best business books of the year on many fronts including CNBC and Forbes.

At Corporate Class Inc., we provide dedicated Leadership Presence Workshops for corporate team leaders. We address this training with a well-defined perspective: We think of executives and high-potentials as corporate-athletes who should be developed, encouraged and coached, as athletes are, to perform at peak levels and achieve personal, team and organizational success. As part of the Leadership Presence process, we identify “C-Suite Olympians” – the stars in an organization – with the potential to develop into genuine leaders. Naturally, we couldn’t wait to learn more about Mr. Walker insights.

“In The Captain Class, Sam Walker presents compelling narratives about the secret
ingredient to the greatest teams of all time – and quickly has the reader re-examining
long-held beliefs about leadership and the glue that binds winning teams together.”

– Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations, the Chicago Cubs

Sam Walker is The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editor of enterprise as well founder of the Journal’s prizewinning daily sports coverage. Mr. Walker, as readers of his book quickly determine, has a deep understanding of both business and sports.

A true archivist, Mr. Walker spent years identifying the best teams in history using a formula he devised and applied to thousands of teams and leagues around the world.

Then, he tackled the job of trying to work out what made them so great –
“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.”

What Mr. Walker discovered was that the 16 most dominant teams in history share a common denominator: “The most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.” Ultimately, it is the Captain.

This book is his detailed analysis of what emerged during the research, including meetings with athletes from over 20 countries, plus, general managers, coaches and executives.

What is intriguing about the men and women who comprise the Captain Class is the seven attributes they share. No doubt, you may dispute that these traits reflect the pinnacle of inspired leadership. Here they are:

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.

The second part of the book explores each of these characteristics with meticulously researched examples, along with scientific research to explain the winning outcomes.

Captain Class is a fascinating departure from the usual role models of leadership.

Check out the list of 16 Teams and Captains Mr. Walker selected, here’s the link.

Learn more about our Leadership Presence Workshops for team leaders.