Want to Win? Find the Right Team Captain

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Team Captain: the very words conjure up a picture in our minds of a leader.  In most sports, the Team Captain is voted on by the entire team.  The Captains are usually the most popular players because they are the most skilled, or the most inspirational, or perhaps the most humble or virtuous.  In some cases, all three apply.

Denver Bronco's Quarterback and Team Captain Peyton Manning
Denver Bronco’s Quarterback and Team Captain Peyton Manning (NFL Photo)

Sports teams, like all teams on and off the field, want to be led by people that they respect.  The corollary is also true: high performing teams are led by great leaders who have the respect of those they lead.

Since it’s the beginning of the Playoffs in the NFL, this article on NFL.com about how teams appoint Captains is instructive about how people want to look up to their leaders:

“The ‘C’ is just recognition,” said [Denver Broncos’ Champ] Bailey, who was a team captain long before the league started recognizing the role with a patch. “But a true captain appoints himself. If you do your job for a long time, somebody is going to vote you a captain at some point. That’s a great honor, but we all have a job to do.”

The article quotes several past and current NFL team captains, but to me the most telling quote came from  Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason:

“I had a person tell me that Bill Belichick will go down as one of the best coaches ever. But why wasn’t he such a guru in Cleveland?” Beason said. “Vince Lombardi. Don Shula. They won a lot of games, and they won Super Bowls. Vince Lombardi has 20-something Hall of Famers. Shula had great players. Coaches know it’s a game about players.  “If you want to win a Super Bowl, you have to have great leaders.”