How might schools create "captain classes"?

Captain Class.jpg

Sam Walker’s The Captain Class (2017) is one of the best leadership books I have read in recent years. It explores the one thing that history’s most elite teams have in common: a certain kind of leader.

As the book argues, the superior captain demonstrates the following characteristics:

  1. She is dogged. (In schools, we might say she has grit.)

  2. She plays to the edge of the rules. (This is a tricky one for schools, but we might say that she creatively solves problems.)

  3. She leads from the back. (In schools, we might say that she doesn’t need to be the smartest or the loudest, but rather the one who “carries water” for the team by modeling hard work.)

  4. She communicates in a practical way. (In schools, we might say that she understands what mode of communication works best for different members of the team.)

  5. She uses nonverbal displays. (In schools, we might say that she understands that what you say isn’t as important as how you say it—or how you express it nonverbally.)

  6. She practices the courage to stand apart. (In schools, we might say that she is willing to speak the truth to power and to address conflict within her team, even though the typical person avoids both.)

  7. She regulates her emotions. (In schools, we might say that she has high EQ.)

I recently had the privilege to interview Sam Walker about lessons that schools might learn from his research and insights. Sam wanted to emphasize the following:

  • The Captain Class is a series of object lessons in how great leadership creates the conditions for sustained success, not simply sporadic victories.

  • Sports are the only place where schools consistently teach leadership. This is odd given how important leadership and followership are for meaningful, successful, fulfilling lives. Sam wondered: how might we transfer the book’s leadership lessons to a coherent and consistent leadership curriculum…

  • … because The Captain Class proves that leadership can be taught. Schools can integrate all seven of the book’s leadership principles into the learning experience.

Sam and I talked about the fact that today’s learners will face an increasing number of problems that the world has never seen before. We agreed that to solve those problems, today’s learners will need to collaborate creatively—that is, work in high performing teams.

So if we care about our learners and our shared future, then schools ought to see the formation of “captain classes” as essential.

When you consider your school’s Mission > Vision > Culture, where do you form leaders by design?

What lessons from The Captain Class can help you to form stronger leaders—and followers—for our Age of Accelerations?


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