How To Be a Great Captain

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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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