How to Successfully Lead A Team: 10 Traits of the Captain
By Coach Dee Josey
Have you ever had a leader you would be willing to risk your life for? Have you been led by someone you would follow anywhere? I have; in fact, I placed my cozy college student life on hold for a year, extended my military contract, and followed my Company Commander to Afghanistan merely because he asked me to. Many of you are probably thinking to yourself, “Dee, you’re insane.” Perhaps I am. Maybe you wouldn’t risk your life for someone else, but chances are you have / had someone in your life for whom you voluntarily make small sacrifices, such as staying late at work or exerting a little more energy on a task, solely because you respect this individual. Congratulations; you found yourself a great leader.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” --John Quincy Adams
My basic training Drill Sergeant once told me, “Private, you will come across many types of leaders in your life--both great and terrible. Always remember, you can learn something from everyone. Mold yourself to the great, and learn from the mistakes of the weak.” He wasn’t kidding. I was fortunate enough to experience and learn from many shades of leadership during my time served in the United States Army and have come up with the top 10 characteristics I feel makes the strongest leader. Apply these in your personal life, and you could carry yourself and your team to victory.
First and foremost, good leaders are dependable. As leaders, they have two basic responsibilities which are always at the forefront of their mind--the welfare of their teammates and/or subordinates and fulfilling their obligations. They complete both competently and consistently. These are the people you can always rely on to show up on time, prepared, and ready to take on the task at hand. They rarely take “sick or personal days” and contribute equally to their team. These leaders are the first ones you run to for help because you can always count on them to be there for you.
Discipline is the key to success, and leaders are disciplined. They consistently do what needs to be done to succeed, even when they don’t want to. They continue to show up even when motivation has run dry. They always do the right thing without being told and in the absence of leadership.
The greatest leaders are not afraid to admit fault. They understand they are human, and they make mistakes. They don’t place blame on others, nor do they make excuses for failures. Instead, they figure out a way to get things done. They take ownership for shortcomings and give praise to their team for successes. They own their mistakes, apologize when appropriate, and work hard to ensure failures do not happen again.
Have you ever had a boss who sat in an office, door closed, with a sign on the outside that read “open door policy”? Have you ever built up enough courage to ask for help, only to be yelled at, feel belittled, or feel like you were being a bother? This is a LEADERSHIP FAILURE!
Great leaders are approachable. They drop everything they are doing to offer assistance when asked, and they make the people around them comfortable. They are usually found out on the floor building relationships with their teammates. When they rarely sit in their office, the door is actually open. They neither undermine someone asking for help, nor do they undervalue the courage it takes to approach them. They are calm, patient, personable, and caring.
6) Positive Attitude
Negative Nancys do not belong in this position. Life throws some awful curveballs, and the last thing a team needs is to have a leader who speaks in a pessimistic tongue. This tears down morale and motivation. This does not mean they are “Positive Pattys” who state “everything is great” or that “it’s okay” when it clearly is not. When life sucks, rah rah cheerleaders do not help the situation. These folks tend to frustrate the team further and reduce its chance to succeed.
Instead, the most successful Team Captains are “Realistic Rachels.” These leaders are in the arena with you and can reframe the situation in a positive light. A positive attitude is turning failures into successes by using them as teachable moments. It’s driving forward with you in the knee-high mud by singing the Rocky Theme Song loud and proud in an attempt to motivate you. It’s finding the small wins in lousy situations. It’s never letting life tear you down.
5) Excellent Communication
Excellent leaders have excellent communication skills. Their focus is centered around the conversation being collaborative and effective rather than being “right” by merely arguing their point. They make eye contact, stand or sit in a non-aggressive manner, and are engaged. Their voice remains calm, collected, and confident. They are empathetic, personable, honest, and transparent. They try to see all sides of the story before making a judgment call. They keep things clear and simple and give good quality, unbiased feedback. Most important, those with great communication skills openly listen more than they speak.
The exceptional leaders are selfless. Their teammates’ (and subordinates’) success and well-being are their top priorities. They make sure their team has the necessary tools to complete a task before completing their own.They are the last to eat, the last to take a vacation, and the last to sleep. Their actions are genuinely altruistic.
3) Lead By Example
Great Commanders lead by example. They are the first to show up and the last to leave. They are the hardest working, most dedicated, most disciplined, and most committed. They hold themselves to a higher standard, and they understand and actively work on their shortcomings. They will never give a task to a colleague or employee that they are not willing to do themselves. They are on the front lines with hands in the dirt and embracing the suck together with their team.
Leaders have a clear vision of where they are now and where they want to go. They set specific goals for themselves and /or their team, and they keep those goals at the forefront of their mind. Their actions and behaviors match their goals. The greatest leaders see potential for how things should or could be and take the steps necessary to get there.
Leaders face fear, danger, or adversity--physical or moral. Fear is normal. Everyone experiences fear from time to time. What sets leaders apart from everyone else is their ability to take risks and push through the fear, self-doubt, and danger. They accept the discomfort of having difficult conversations. They show up even when know they cannot control the outcome, and they stay present. They allow themselves to show vulnerability and authenticity to others. They set hard boundaries and stand up for others and situations they know to be honorable. They take calculated risks and are brave enough to make the tough decisions, even when it isn’t the popular choice.
Delta Performance Builds Leaders
Every team needs a leader. In the United States Army, the commanding officer in charge of leading a company of troops to victory is the Captain. On a sports team, the Captain is the one responsible for the team’s success.
At Delta Performance, we believe in more than "personal training" or "giving our clients the best workout possible". We strive to build the leaders of tomorrow. Our coaches mold our athletes to become the best version of themselves through education and practical application, so they can turn around and help others become healthier, stronger individuals. To showcase our leaders, our coaches vote on a new team captain every month or two. Our team captains represent these 10 qualities we try to instill in each of our athletes. They live these traits inside and outside our gym, and they inspire others to do the same. If you want to learn more about our team captains, you can find their stories here.
If you are interested in how to become a leader in the personal training / strength coach / fitness industry, we invite you to apply for our internship program, and experience how it is done at Delta Performance.
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Thank you for choosing to become a stronger leader.