How To Be a Great Captain

a miniature statue of a ship captainThere is no “I” in “team” but there is a captain even if there is no “C”. A few weeks ago Cog wrote on the importance of teamwork in PR and how as PR professionals we often work collaboratively. However the post reminded me that behind every great team is a great leader. Someone the team trusts, believes in, and who believes in the betterment of the group. Perhaps it’s the manager that goes the extra to mile, ensuring all players are on board or making sure the separate tasks are meeting the end goal. In the simplest terms, thanks to, a captain is a person who is at the head of or in authority over others;a chief; a leader. In my opinion, if you want a successful team you need a great leader. Marie and I came up with a few necessary traits, in no particular order, we feel a leader should have.

(Note: Marie and I know taking on the role as captain isn’t all rainbows and unicorns and we needed someone to play devil’s advocate. In true PRBC fashion, we turned to our resident devil, Cog, and asked if he would put together why, although our traits are important, it’s not that easy. You can see that post here)

A team captain needs to:

Be loyal. What is said amongst the team, stays amongst the team. Think of Robert De Niro in “Meet in the Parents” and the circle of trust. Players need to have confidence that in addition to their voice being heard, their captain will go up to bat for them when the time is needed.  If the team’s wrong wrong, there needs to be trust that the captain will explain why and how the situation can be handled differently to effectively move on.

Be patient and understand the players. Similar to sports teams, each employee takes on a certain role within the team. There will be extroverts/introverts, clowns/dictators etc. It is up to the team captain to understand what motivates each individual to nip problems in the butt. Leader needs to know each individual’s strengths and weaknesses in order to use them to their best ability. Pair up the employee that thinks outside the box but has bad grammar with an employee who’s straight laced and sleeps with the AP style book ;).

Know how to motivate, not deflate. Effective leadership is a tricky thing. Leaders have a job to do and that’s to lead, but one has to be careful to not deflate your entire staff’s motivation in the process. When some leaders get frustrated they take the doomsday approach – “the whole world is going to end if you don’t do this.” One might see this as an effective technique, but it also has the potential to backfire. Look, your staff probably knows when something is important, but emphasizing that there’s no hope can lead to hopelessness. If your employees are under the impression that you’ve given up, then what is their motivation?

Never point the finger. As a leader if you are angry about an issue, your first response might be blasting your staff as a whole, which sometimes can include finger-pointing of specific individuals to the masses. As much as you might be tempted to single out certain people, it’s better to deal with them on a one-on-one basis. As an employee, when your manager lets you know you’ve done something wrong – that can be a hard pill to swallow in the first place. If that same person is scolded in front of his/her other colleagues – that will cause unnecessary tension and embarrassment.

These are traits that we believe are vital for any captain to know. What would you add?

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  • rachelferrucci

    Those are great traits! A couple others I would add is Constructive Criticism- When a team member makes a mistake. You need to sit with them and show them what they did right and how it would have been better.
    Trust to Delegate- You need to trust your employees will get the job done. Give them the project and let go completely. Asking for updates is ok, but when you need to be a part of it every step of the way, you might as well do it yourself.

  • Wish some of my prior bosses shared the same sentiments. I would only add, remaining part of the team. Too often many of my leaders felt they were above the team or aside from us. This mentality created hostility amongst the group, however minor, it was still more friction to get past.

  • Good post, thank you. I think you've defined one slice of the pie.

    For years, I've said that an agency PR leader needs 3 things:

    1) be good at the art of PR (hence, lead by example)

    2) be good at the business of the business — driving new income, keeping clients happy, thought leadership, etc.

    3) manage people effectively — and the points you raise above fit this category very well.


  • marieveebee

    Thanks J.D. for your comments! I think you add some great things that are also important in a leader as well.

  • Rachel what a great point, trusting the employees and their ability to complete a task. No one likes to be micromanaged.

    Thanks for the input.

  • Hi girls, thanks for the great post. In my experience, a great leader must know when to be a follower. Which means listening and letting your team lead. An idea may come from one person and even though the whole team is on the band wagon, only those who conceive the idea may sometimes know exactly how to implement it. Trust them and let them take point. After all, thats part of listening, understanding, and motivating.

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