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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

The Captain Class by Sam Walker~ 3 minute read

I finished this book in May 2021. I recommend this book 9/10.

This is a really interesting book that highlights the leaders behind the most successful sports teams in the world. And as you will learn when reading this book, those leaders are not the 6 feet tall, muscular, beautiful, white teeth Tom Brady's or David Beckhams we first think of.

This book is a piece of detective work that includes fun stories you have never heard before. You will realize that leadership on the most successful teams happens because the value is about the team, not the individual, not because of the city or the fans. Get your copy here.

My thoughts and notes:

  • The seven traits of elite captains:

    • 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 control.

  • A smaller group of kids had a different reaction, however. Faced with the failure problems, they kept working, They didn't think they were dumb: they believed they just hadn't found the right strategy yet. A few reacted in a shockingly positive way. One boy pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, and said, "I love a challenge." These persistent kids, as a group, hadn't been any better at solving the easy problems. In fact, their strategies suggested that they were, on average, slightly less skillful. But when the going got tough, they didn't get down on themselves, they viewed the unsolved problems as puzzles to be mastered through effort.

  • Often they had pushed the frontiers of the rules in pressure situations, sometimes with ugly results. What I had not understood is that these flare-ups were not always impulsive acts performed in the heat of battle. In some cases, they were premeditated. Is becoming fearless part of also be willing to break the rules? How does this play with the stoic mind?

  • Duncan was the rare captain who had the talent to take over games and put up some of the NBA's gaudiest statistics, But his approach to leadership compelled him to suppress his skills, and even his salary, in order to focus on fixing whatever happened to be broken. He wasn't concerned with his public image, only that his team won.

  • One of the great paradoxes of management is that the people who pursue leadership positions most ardently are often the wrong people for the job. They're motivated by prestige the role conveys rather than a desire to promote the goals and values of the organization.

  • Effective team leaders are those who do, or who arrange to get done, whatever is critical for the team to accomplish its purpose.

  • "I knew I couldn't make a difference with a single move," Deschamps said. "But over the long run, through hundred of small acts of service and management, I was able to balance things out and to become indispensable."

  • "A player like Pelé is under so much pressure—there is so much on his shoulders with the fans and the press. It's almost better for him to prepare in the best possible way to play a good game, rather than worrying about the functions of a captain. A captain has to be worried all the time, to be focused on solving problems, talking to the coach, seeking the best way for the team to play, and being an intermediary between the team officials and the players. You have to move the best player away from the group so that he can prepare."

  • They engaged with their teammates constantly—listening, observing, and inserting themselves into every meaningful moment. They didn't think of communication as a form of theater. They saw it as an unbroken flow of interactions, a never-ending parade of boxing ears, delivering hugs, and wiping noses.

  • Lahm believed that without passion, even the best teams won't win and that the passion of one player could elevate the performance of an entire team. When a leader does something dramatic on the field, he said, "it releases energies you didn't even know you had."

  • Hackman's four principles:

    • Effective leaders know some things. The best team leaders seemed to have a solid understanding of the conditions that needed to be present inside a team in order for its members to thrive.

    • Effective leaders know how to do some things. In "performance" situations. Hackman noticed that the most skillful leaders seemed to always sound the right notes. They understood the "themes" that were most important in whatever situation the team was in, and knew how to close the gap between the team's current state of being and the one it needed to reach in order to succeed.

    • Effective leaders should be emotionally mature. Hackman understood that leading a team could be "an emotionally challenging undertaking." Great captains have to manage their own anxieties while coping with the feeling of others.

    • Effective leaders need to a measure of personal courage. The basic work of a leader, Hackman believed, was to move a group away from its entranced system and into a better, more prosperous one. In other words, a leader's job is to help a team make the turn toward greatness.

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