Episode 6: Sam Walker | Author of The Captain Class - The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams


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“It's not the person who clinks their glass, gives the big speech and tries to project leadership. It's the person who is quietly going around and talking to everyone individually with great enthusiasm and listening.”

~ Sam Walker (Author of The Captain Class - The Hidden Force That Creates The World's Greatest Teams)

The secret to winning is not what you think it is.
It's not the coach. It's not the star.
It's not chemistry. It's not a strategy.
It's something else entirely.

Several years ago, our guest today 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 and sporting leagues all over the world, from the NFL to the English Premier League to Australian Rules Football and Olympic field hockey. When he was done, he had a list of the sixteen most dominant teams ever. And then, at that point, he became obsessed with another, more complicated question: What did these freak teams have in common?

As Sam dug more deeply, a pattern emerged: Each team had the same type of captain - a singular leader who drove it to sustained, historic periods of greatness.

Fuelled by a lifetime of sports spectating, twenty years of reporting, and a decade of painstaking research, Sam’s book, 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 doggedness and the knack for non-verbal communication, to aggression and the courage to speak the truth to those in power.

Told through riveting accounts of some of the most pressure-soaked moments in sports history - from Bill Russell's legendary 'Coleman Play' in the 1957 NBA Finals to Barcelona's 'Figo Game' against Real Madrid in 2000 - The Captain Class doesn't just bring these events to life; it presents a fresh, counterintuitive take on leadership and teams that can be applied to almost any aspect of life; from sports to business, to families and communities.

To give you a little insight, the sixteen leaders who make up the Captain Class were never the most skilled, nor were they best at sportsmanship. Often they were the role players, they disliked the spotlight, and were famously inarticulate. In short, they challenge all of our assumptions of what inspired leadership looks like.

In this episode, we sit down with Sam and take a look beyond the names and the glory and take a look at what’s really going on. The book is a fantastic read and I’d recommend it for anyone with even a passing interest in sports, teams or even statistics. And if your in business, then you’ll definitely want to hear this episode and learn what Sam has discovered.

So let’s dive in and find out a little more about some of the most successful sporting teams in history and the types of people that were absolutely critical to helping them get there.

On with the show!

Dan Stones

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We are making some minor changes to our scheduling. From this point forward Barnraisers is going to come out fortnightly…thats mean a full length conversation will be released every two weeks (on a Tuesday).

As of now, the Team Huddle show is going optional…what does that mean? Well it means they will still be showing up from time to time, but they are not going to be released on any fixed schedule, (think of them as bonus episodes!)

Follow us on social media (@barnraiserspod) to be the first to know when a Team huddle episode is released.


13 episodes available. A new episode about every 12 days averaging 55 mins duration .