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.
Sam Walker is deputy editor for enterprise at the Wall Street Journal. He was previously the global sports editor, having founded the sports desk in 2009, where he headed up a team that handled every sporting event there is. Under him, the desk won more than a dozen journalism prizes and received two Pulitzer Prize nominations. Sam is also the author of Fantasyland (2006) which was turned into a documentary. He lives in New York with his wife and two children.