You know the movie cliché where a coach makes a persuasive speech that inspires the team to win?
That’s not how it works in real life, but the greatest teams in history do have one important figure in common: a team captain who leads by being the ultimate middle manager. Sam Walker, founding editor of The Wall Street Journal’s sports section, created a formula to determine the most successful teams in sports history and then discovered that the most important factor wasn’t talent or money but the captain.
This player is a “classic middle manager” who stands between the coach and management and the players, Walker explained on Thursday’s “The Morning Blaze with Doc Thompson.” He explored this phenomenon in his new book, “The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams.”
A winning team’s captain must have both a “team-first mentality” and “independence,” but the intriguing twist was that their leadership didn’t depend on talent or charisma. The best captains shared traits that were based on behavior and decisions they made, not impassioned speeches or God-given sports talent – which means that everyone can learn leadership skills from their success.
The captains leading the most dominant teams of all also had close partnerships with their coaches.
“That was one of the formulas that just kept popping up over and over,” Walker said.
The top captains shared seven traits, including strong non-verbal communication, conviction, emotional control and a low-key style of interacting with the players through one-on-one conversations.
“It was behavior,” Walker said. “These are choices that we make."