What is the hidden force that creates the world's greatest teams?

The secret to winning is not what you think it is. It is not the coach. It is not the star. It is not the money. It is not the strategy. It is something else entirely.

In March 2017, I had the pleasure of listening to Sam Walker talk about his book, 'The Captain's Class' at a Sport's Performance conference at Red Bull in Los Angeles. Subsequently, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading an advance copy of it. 

It confirmed a lot of our thinking and I have now compiled together traits from other sources (not necessarily in sport) to identify the DNA that makes great leaders of great teams. 

What is really fascinating are the number of traits that repeat themselves across a range of sources including those of Sam Walker's core qualities.

Many of traits identified are immeasurable, but can be more visually identified. However, there are some that are measurable, which we do measure and we have been building an interesting database of results from real live people from a variety of backgrounds in both business, sport and the military.

As it stands today, the traits that we see as critically important, whether you are in Business, Sport, Extreme Adventuring or the military are:  

  • Good decision-making
  • Passion
  • Resilience
  • Grit
  • Courage
  • Competitive Focus
  • Humility
  • Emotional Discipline
  • Pushes on the set boundaries
  • Consensual Leadership
  • Adaptable


Do you have them or can you identify with them? 

When those qualities are present in the leader of a team, then the chances are a team will perform at a top level for as long as that leader is there.   

If you are interested in improving performance through developing current and future leaders in your organisation, please contact us as we would be delighted to help. 

About The Captain Class

Several years ago, Sam Walker set out to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in sports: What are the greatest teams of all time? 

He devised a formula, then applied it to thousands of teams from leagues all over the world, from the NBA to the English Premier League to Olympic field hockey. When he was done, he had a list of the sixteen most dominant teams in history. At that point, he became obsessed with another, more complicated question: What did these freak teams have in common

As Walker dug into their stories, a pattern emerged: Each team had the same type of captain—a singular leader with an unconventional skill set who drove it to achieve sustained, historic greatness. 

Fueled by a lifetime of sports spectating, twenty years of reporting, and a decade of painstaking research, The Captain Class tells the surprising story of what makes teams exceptional. Drawing on original interviews with athletes from two dozen countries, as well as general managers, coaches, executives, and others skilled at building teams, Walker identifies the seven core qualities of this Captain Class—from extreme doggedness and emotional control to a knack for nonverbal communication to tactical aggression and the courage to stand apart.

The men and women who make up the Captain Class were never the most skilled athletes, nor were they gifted orators or paragons of sportsmanship. They were often role players who were allergic to the spotlight. 

Picture: Richie McCaw - Captain of New Zealand All Blacks. A Tier 1 leader.

What is the hidden force that creates the world's greatest teams?

In March 2017, I had the pleasure of listening to Sam Walker talk about his book, The Captain's Class at a Sport's Performance conference at Red Bull in Los Angeles. Subsequently, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading an advance copy of his book. 

It confirmed a lot of our thinking and I have now compiled together traits from other sources (not necessarily in sport) to identify the DNA that makes  great leaders of great teams. 

What is really interesting is the number of traits that repeat themselves across all the sources including those of Sam Walker's core qualities.

Many of traits identified are immeasurable and are more visually identified. But there are some that are measurable and we have been building an interesting database of results from real live people from the various assessments we run for clients.

As it stands today, the traits that we see as critically important, whether you are in Business, Sport, Extreme Adventuring or the Special Forces are:  

  • Good decision-making
  • Passion
  • Resilience
  • Grit
  • Courage
  • Competitive Focus
  • Humility
  • Emotional Discipline
  • Pushes on the set boundaries
  • Consensual Leadership


Do you have them or can you identify with them? 

When those qualities are present in the leader of a team, then the chances are a team will perform at a top level for as long as they are there.   

If you are interested in improving performance through developing current and future leaders in your organisation, please contact us as we would be delighted to help. 

About The Captain Class

Several years ago, Sam Walker set out to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in sports: What are the greatest teams of all time? 

He devised a formula, then applied it to thousands of teams from leagues all over the world, from the NBA to the English Premier League to Olympic field hockey. When he was done, he had a list of the sixteen most dominant teams in history. At that point, he became obsessed with another, more complicated question: What did these freak teams have in common

As Walker dug into their stories, a pattern emerged: Each team had the same type of captain—a singular leader with an unconventional skill set who drove it to achieve sustained, historic greatness. 

Fueled by a lifetime of sports spectating, twenty years of reporting, and a decade of painstaking research, The Captain Class tells the surprising story of what makes teams exceptional. Drawing on original interviews with athletes from two dozen countries, as well as general managers, coaches, executives, and others skilled at building teams, Walker identifies the seven core qualities of this Captain Class—from extreme doggedness and emotional control to a knack for nonverbal communication to tactical aggression and the courage to stand apart.

The men and women who make up the Captain Class were never the most skilled athletes, nor were they gifted orators or paragons of sportsmanship. They were often role players who were allergic to the spotlight. 

Picture: Richie McCaw - Captain of the New Zealand All Blacks. He captained the team in 110 out of 148 test matches from 2006 and won two Rugby World Cups. He is the most capped test rugby player of all time and has won the World Rugby player of the year award a joint three times. 

If you are interested in improving performance through developing current and future leaders in your organisation, please contact us as we would be delighted to help.