At 25 years old, Harry Kane was by no means the most experienced footballer to captain the England team to success during the 2018 World Cup. But he was chosen for a number of reasons, least of all his maturity, leadership and motivation.
These are amongst the core values that a good team captain needs to have in order to lead their team to glory.
If you have hopes of one day being picked to lead your team, or to captain your club, then here’s twelve essential traits shared by all successful leaders.
Be a role model
As the person at the helm, the rest of the team look up to you for guidance. Both your words and actions will have a lasting influence on those around you. If you are calm and confident your team will learn to adopt a similar approach, if you’re reckless and lack agreeability, you’ll soon create a team that has no boundaries.
Simply put, be the change. Your behaviour reflects your team and its values, so it’s important to be composed and considered at all times in daily sport.
Support your team
Being a captain is no different to being a people manager. You have emotions to deal with, personalities to manage, relationships to maintain. From athlete training for kids through to dealing with professionals, people management requires good communication and plenty of support. Listen to your team, act on their feedback, create a culture that is open to new ideas and respectful of others.
There is no place for discrimination of any kind in sport. The same respect should be shown to every athlete, regardless of their skill, experience, background or personal circumstance. By cultivating a culture of trust and respect, you are also building the important groundwork for a well-bonded team.
Sometimes in sport, risks pay off. But if you’re never prepared to take them, you’ll never know. If you want to be a captain, or if you have chosen to assume the role, you’ll want to express braveness and courage, as appealing traits. That’s not to say you need to be reckless; a well-considered approach is advised.
There can be no greater compliment than ‘a safe of pair hands’ – this shows an explicit trust. This comes from consistency and building up a reputation for being the best in your field. It’s what legends are made of. So, think about how you can build up your reputation to be the same.
Find a positive in every negative
When the chips are down, the team will look to you to bring spirits up. This kind of maturity is what sets leaders apart from followers. Having a positive state of mind and outlook is part of this. If you want to keep your team motivated, be sure to have this outlook.
Work together with the team to find a solution
It’s often thought that a leader is the one with all the ideas. Not so. In modern sports coaching, we learn that success is a collaborative approach. Can you accept ideas as well as offer them? Are you able to celebrate and take on other solutions, as well as your own? If so, you are perfectly equipped for this role, because it’s all about collaboration.
Lead by example
How can your team respect you if you have let yourself down? Leading by example is one of the most important prerequisites for this role, since others will always look up to you.
How are you going to get your team to athletic performance training on a cold frosty December morning? How will you pick up their spirits after they’ve been annihilated and publicly humiliated? No-one wants to think about these situations, but the reality is that they are likely to crop up at some point. As the person in charge, you have the power to uplift a team and motivate them to success. You are going to have to be their biggest cheerleader – is that something you can rise to?
In order to be a good leader, you will need to inspire a team. You will want them to hang on to your words, to respect your leadership and approach and want to emulate your success in years to come. But with big teams come big personalities, different background and lots of ambitions. To be inspiring, you need to put yourself out there, show vulnerability and give your team hope. Think of some of the greatest sports coaches in the world – they all had the power to inspire. So, must you as a captain.
Be aware of individual differences
Teams are a melting pot of different personalities and people. As such, they are the perfect breeding ground for arguments and disagreements. Key to avoiding this is being respectful and aware of individuals and the many traits that make them unique. One of the reasons why Sir Alex Ferguson was said to be such an inspiring manager, was because of how he respected the team both as a group but as individuals too.
Let your actions speak for you
While it can be hard to block out the glare of the watchful media eye, it’s always important to be true to yourself. Let your actions speak for you, it’s the best kind of speaking that can be done. Thus, focus on the job in hand, try to block out external influences, and you will soon reap the results.
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