Walker takes an interesting (and fun) approach to the study of what makes teams successful. Using specific criteria, he identifies the 16 best athletic teams of all time. (Since publication, he added the New England Patriots as a 17th.) The teams range from the early 1950’s Yankees to the more recent San Antonio Spurs, from the 1970’s Steelers to the Cuban Women’s Volleyball team. If you enjoy sports, it is a fun read just to learn more about these and other dynasties.
Walker then explores the reason for the great success of these teams. We live in a culture that believes in the cult of charismatic leadership, so the tendency is to go to the coach, or the superstar player. What he found was something different, these teams all had a team captain or captains who had a certain set of characteristics.
In brief, what Walker calls the Seven Traits of Elite Captains are:
- Extreme doggedness in competition
- Aggressive play that tests the limits of 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.
At KASB we are fortunate to have members of our Board of Directors who exemplify these traits. These people have tended to rise to leadership positions at KASB and we are better for it. As you consider leadership on your local boards, take a minute and review Walker’s traits.
Would these be good characteristics for a board member and more so for a board president or vice president? Would all our associations be better places for students if we had leaders who exemplified a willingness to do thankless jobs in the shadows, who have ironclad emotional control and who use a low-key, practical and democratic communication style?
Making our organizations great isn’t always comfortable. It sometimes requires the courage to stand apart, but that courage needs to be paired with the ability to motivate others. Doggedness is a good trait if it is paired with strong emotional control. Walker found that it required all of these traits combined to achieve elite status.
As you elect your leadership teams this summer, I encourage you to give this some thought. For those of you who are chosen to lead, these might be some good personal goals. I wish you all a good summer and a great first meeting in July.