• The Captain Class

  • The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams
  • By: Sam Walker
  • Narrated by: Keith Szarabajka
  • Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (900 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A bold new theory of leadership drawn from elite captains throughout sports - named one of the best business books of the year by CNBC, The New York Times, Forbes, strategy+business, The Globe and Mail, and Sports Illustrated 

“The book taught me that there’s no cookie-cutter way to lead. Leading is not just what Hollywood tells you. It’s not the big pregame speech. It’s how you carry yourself every day, how you treat the people around you, who you are as a person.” (Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback, Chicago Bears)

The sixteen most dominant teams in sports history had one thing in common: Each employed the same type of captain - a singular leader with an unconventional set of skills and tendencies. Drawing on original interviews with athletes, general managers, coaches, and team-building experts, Sam Walker identifies the seven core qualities of the Captain Class - from extreme doggedness and emotional control to tactical aggression and the courage to stand apart. Told through riveting accounts of pressure-soaked moments in sports history, The Captain Class will challenge your assumptions of what inspired leadership looks like.   

Praise for The Captain Class  

“Wildly entertaining and thought-provoking... makes you reexamine long-held beliefs about leadership and the glue that binds winning teams together.” (Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, Chicago Cubs)

“If you care about leadership, talent development, or the art of competition, you need to read this immediately.” (Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code)

“The insights in this book are tremendous.” (Bob Myers, general manager, Golden State Warriors)

“An awesome book... I find myself relating a lot to its portrayal of the out-of the-norm leader.” (Carli Lloyd, co-captain, US Soccer Women’s National Team)

“A great read... Sam Walker used data and a systems approach to reach some original and unconventional conclusions about the kinds of leaders that foster enduring success. Most business and leadership books lapse into clichés. This one is fresh.” (Jeff Immelt, chairman and former CEO, General Electric)

“I can’t tell you how much I loved The Captain Class. It identifies something many people who’ve been around successful teams have felt but were never able to articulate. It has deeply affected my thoughts around how we build our culture.” (Derek Falvey, chief baseball officer, Minnesota Twins)

©2017 Sam Walker (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

The Captain Class really resonated with me. It will absolutely be part of my thought process as we continue to build our roster.” (Ryan Pace, general manager, Chicago Bears)

"I’ve been involved with an undefeated high school team, an undefeated college team, and coached in two Super Bowls. The Captain Class made me think back to those teams. The captains were indeed characters with a bit of uniqueness and a certain grittiness.” (Pat Ruel, offensive line coach, Seattle Seahawks)

“The best book I’ve read this year.” (Mike Dunlap, head basketball coach, Loyola Marymount University)

What listeners say about The Captain Class

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Dates and names

You better be the biggest sports fan to enjoy this book. Ends on the power of story telling, unrelated to the theme of leadership. Lots of recycled ideas in here. Rugby’s “legacy” + Sapiens + the excitement of reading a dictionary + history of team-sports lecture = the captain class. If you want a leadership book try extreme ownership. And if you want to know about being the best team, watch “the last dance”.

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Excellent audiobook

Just what an audiobook should be. First, great writing by Sam Walker, with engaging stories and sometimes surprising conclusions. And then a first-class narrator in Keith Szarabajka - compelling and not overdone. Highly recommended for content and narration.

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Must read

Become a better leader and recognize the attributes and key components that make them up.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting look at captains

Part 1 (how he picked the teams) was a little dry for me. I could have done with that part being shorter.

Part 2 (on the captains and their traits) was really interesting. I loved all of the teams from a wide array of sports. The stories were interesting and I loved the accents the narrator used.

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What it really takes to win

Walker’s goal for this book was to find the greatest sports teams in human history, then to compare them to see what, if anything, they had in common. He wanted to know if there’s a common theme or formula or cause. And if there was, how could we use that to be successful? First, he systematically studied and sorted thousands of teams down to Tier 1 teams- the best 16 teams of all-time ever. Now, what do they have in common? Great coaching? No. Great management? No. Great superstars? No again. Unmatched resources ($$$)? No. Turns out they have nothing in common except for one remarkable thing- they all had a very specific advantage- Tier 1 captains. These captains were not flashy or media darlings; they were the opposite. They avoided attention. They put in the hard work behind the scenes. They united their teams. They put the team first in ways that forged unity. Here are the seven traits of Walker’s elite captains: 1- Extreme doggedness and focus in competition. 2- Aggressive play that tests the limits of the rules. 3- A willingness to do the thankless jobs in the shadows. 4-A low-key, practical, and democratic communication style. 5-Motivates others with passionate nonverbal displays. 6- Strong convictions and courage to stand apart. 7- Ironclad emotional control. These traits are not super sexy or glamorous, so they are not being sought in today’s tv-contract driven world of sports. So, if you want to have a winning team, you need to find a person who exemplifies these traits, put them in the lead and get out of the way. And if you are struggling on your team because you don’t have a big enough budget, management is blocking you, or maybe you don’t feel talented enough, take heart. Success comes through hard work, communication, sticking with your crew, and being willing to stand out. A note on the style of this book: Walker is a sports writer, so he throws in lots of statistics and stories. I found his style to be extremely intelligent without being overly intellectual. I dig it. Thanks, Adrian, for this excellent recommendation.

This book is for servant leaders and brave souls seeking to get better.

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Fascinating research and analysis

Fascinating research and analysis of that makes great teams. Will apply to my life and business!

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Underrated

Excellent book! Changes the way we currently see sports and makes us understand maybe why we are lacking an all-time great team currently in many sports. The voice acting can be a bit much at times with the accents, but is generally very good.

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Oh the accents!

The ridiculous,stereotypical, and borderline offensive accents the narrator used when quoting athletes of all nationalities almost ruined this good book for me.

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must read for anyone leading team or organization.

great insights into psychology of teams and role of captains. sometimes too much of sport details, but overall value is great.

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Must read (listen) for current sports execs

The amount of work and research put into this book is immense. Some of the internal stories tend to run a bit long, but the presentation of information in support of team leadership is absolutely irrefutable.