The Captain Class
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.
The founding editor of The Wall Street Journal’s sports section profiles the greatest teams in history and identifies the counterintuitive leadership qualities of the unconventional men and women who drove them to succeed. Fuelled by a lifetime of sports spectating, twenty years of reporting, and a decade of painstaking research, The Captain Class is not just a book on sports; it is the key to how successful teams are built and how transformative leadership is born.
Several years ago, Sam Walker set out to answer the most hotly debated sports question: what are the greatest teams of all time? He devised a formula, applied it to thousands of teams and listed the 16 most dominant teams ever across all sports, from the English Premiere League to the NFL. But what did these freak teams have in common?
As Walker dug deeper, a pattern emerged: all teams were driven by a singular type of leader, a captain, but not one you might expect. They were unorthodox outliers – awkward and disagreeable, marginally skilled, poor communicators, rule breaking and rather than pursuing fame, hid in the shadows. Captains, in short, who challenge your assumption of what inspired leadership looks like.
Covering world renowned teams like Barcelona, Brazil, the All Blacks and the New York Yankees to lesser known successes of Soviet ice hockey or French handball, The Captain Class unveils the seven key qualities that make an exceptional leader. Drawing on original interviews with athletes, coaches and managers from two dozen countries, Walker questions if great captains are made or born, why teams pick the wrong captain and how the value of the captain can be revived.
The most fabulous book on freakish sporting success and leadership traits commonly shared across the greatest teams of all time. I thoroughly recommend it. -- Rich Buchanan, Performance Director, Swansea City FC The examples in Walker's book are striking. There's a temptation for captains to conform to the accepted stereotype of what a heroic leader should be. Walker's book utterly-and rightly in my view-dispels that notion. The leaders he analyses were the opposite of what you might imagine a leader to be. -- Mike Atherton, former captain, England cricket team Well-researched, wildly entertaining, and thought-provoking. 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 reexamining long-held beliefs about leadership and the glue that binds winning teams together. -- Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs The Captain Class is a brilliant hybrid: one part detective story and one part leadership book, dedicated to a fascinating mystery: What sets apart the greatest teams of all time? I couldn't put it down. -- Dan Heath, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Made to Stick Sam Walker has unlocked one of sports' greatest mysteries. The Captain Class is one of the most surprising, best-written-and fun-sports books published in recent years. -- Don Van Natta Jr, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author Over the years, many books have promised to reveal the secret of building successful teams. But now Sam Walker has actually gone and done it. An idea-driven, myth-busting gem of a book. -- Dan Coyle, New York Times bestselling author of The Talent Code and The Secret Race Wonderfully strange and absorbing... Informative, persuasive and great fun for anyone not only with a passing interest in sport but in mankind. -- Keith Duggan * Irish Times * 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, No.1 New York Times bestselling author of Quiet A fascinating new body of research about greatness in a sports team. -- Jeremy Wilson * Daily Telegraph * One of THE sports books that I think will soon be in every manager's office. -- Matt Williams * Simon Mayo Show, BBC Radio 2 * A remarkable book, one that articulates much of what you feel about great teams but have perhaps been afraid to express... -- David Walsh * The Sunday Times *
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