Our current blog series is on The Captain Class: A New Theory of Leadership by Sam Walker. We all know the importance of leadership for high performance; however, it is often difficult to describe what leadership is and specifically, how it affects performance. Walker describes himself as having an “ache to be part of a great team.” This passion fueled his desire to learn what elite teams have in common and simply, what separates the best from the rest. When Walker embarked on this project, he expected to uncover multiple traits the most elite teams had in common. Much to his surprise, he found that they all had exactly one common trait – “the most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.” Walker determined there were seven methods that all elite leaders utilized. In this blog, we will discuss the last four methods.
The fourth method that Sam Walker discussed is practical communication. Walker realized that Tier One captains were not prone to delivering long, motivational speeches. Rather, these captains were efficient with their words and doled out their attention to all teammates. These captains were often viewed as aloof by the public or media, but their private interactions with their teammates were deliberate and effective. Walker described the idea of shared cognition in which groups of individuals become accustomed to completing a task together and seem to anticipate each other’s needs and responses. Often, this happened at an unconscious level through countless repetitions of effective anticipation, communication, and problem solving. Walker also emphasized the importance of positive body language, suggesting the words these captains used mattered much less than their body language.
Calculated acts and the power of nonverbal displays is the fifth method Walker described. This method might seem similar to practical communication; however, Walker emphasized it was very different, often seeming like a “primal” form of communication. Walker discussed how emotional contagion can affect our biology and actions in a subconscious, powerful manner. Tier One captains intuitively affected their teammates in a powerful manner because of their visible emotional displays of intensity and passion. Walker says, “Leaders can bypass the conscious minds of their followers and communicate directly with their brains.”
The courage to stand apart is the sixth method Tier One captains utilized. In fact, many of the Tier One captains stood up to their own coach or management at times if they believed it was necessary for the team to succeed. These captains were not afraid to voice uncomfortable truths and did not shy away from being in the middle of conflict despite the potential consequences of upsetting your teammates and friends. These captains did not dissent to cause personal “locker room drama.” They simply wanted to win and felt the need to challenge the status quo to move the group forward.
The final method that Walker discusses is the importance of emotional regulation and having a kill switch. Our past two blogs have detailed how Tier One captains are intense and passionate. These performers had to learn when this strength became a weakness and hindered their success. Emotional regulation might mean showing emotional resiliency during incredibly stressful personal situations or injury. Or, it might mean maintaining composure after being provoked. Tier One captains learned how to effectively manage their intense emotions to help their team. Our module on energy management can provide more tips on the importance of this skill!
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