10 Life Lessons From Captain Horace Burrell

When giants pass from this life, it is not enough to lament and bemoan what has been lost. Even as we grieve their passing, we should stop to examine the lives of these great men and women and extract lessons that will help us to make the most of the time we have left.

Captain Horace Burrell, affectionately called ‘Cappo’,  was a leader, a patriot, a military man, a father, a family man, an entrepreneur, businessman and diplomat. He died at 67 years old, but managed to accomplish many great things in the time that he spent on planet Earth. There is much to learn from his approach to leadership, business and life. Here are 10 lessons we extracted from his very full life.

1. Be the leader.

Anyone who worked with the Captain will tell you that he rose to the occasion of leadership as often as it became necessary. He was in charge of the Jamaica Defence Force’s football team, president of the Bakers’  Association of Jamaica, vice-president of the Caribbean Football Union, chairman of CONCACAF’s disciplinary committee, president of the Jamaica Football Federation and Football Foundation of Jamaica, vice-president of the Jamaica Olympic Association … the list is impressive. There’s a lesson there for us: do not be afraid to lead. If you see the need, if you know you have what it takes to get the job done and make a positive impact, don’t shy away from the task. Step forward with boldness and grace … and be the leader.

2. Serve your country.

‘The President’, as he was sometimes called, demonstrated his love for his country through his service to it. He was a military man, and gave over 10 years of service before retiring to pursue other interests. As a successful businessman (founder and CEO of The Captain’s Bakery and The Captain’s Aviation Services), he gave back by sponsoring many local sporting events. He also lent his administrative expertise to the growth and development of Jamaican football without reservation. He served Jamaica, and he did it well.

3. Pursue multiple passions with excellence.

The Captain was a military man, a baker, a businessman, and a sports enthusiast. He rose to great heights in all of these fields. It shows that it is possible to successfully pursue more than one passions. But what is the key? Bringing a consistent set of values to the table – being and pursuing excellence in all things. The Captain demonstrated this in every field he became involved in. His consistent excellence enabled him to repeatedly win confidence and attain success.

4. Build for the long term.

Many credit The Captain with laying the foundation for successful football administration in Jamaica. He didn’t just build to meet the JFF’s short term needs, but rather ensured that the organisational premise was laid for continuity many years hence. Today, the JFF has an organisational structure that enables its smooth oversight on a large-scale national level, and smooth operation on a small-scale parish level. That’s long-term thinking.

5. Plan for the short term.

A popular example? The tremendous amount of forethought and planning that went into Jamaica’s pursuit of qualification for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals. After he was elected president of the JFF, The Captain initiated the Football Foundation of Jamaica with the aim of gathering the financial and technical support required to ensure that the country was immediately equipped to qualify for FIFA games that would take place four years later.

6. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular.

Don’t be afraid to do what is necesssary, or make the tough decisions as a leader. In The Captain’s own words shortly after being elected president of the JFF: “As a leader, one cannot be afraid to make decisions, even if it means being unpopular; there will be no room for incompetence.”

7. Be decisive.

be firm and clear on your values, and then be decisive in your actions. As the Captain made clear when running the JFF: “Anyone failing to perform effectively, efficiently or scrupulously, I would have no hesitation in removing that individual immediately.”

8. Ignore the naysayers.

There will be detractors and naysayers for any endeavour you undertake in life. There will always be those people who try to impede your progress. Sometimes, it is best to ignore these naysayers and run with the vision you know you have. The Captain served in the JFF for many years. He lost the presidency for one term, amid a period of many naysayers and detractors. He didn’t let that stop him. He came back four years later to win the presidency and lead the JFF.

9. Network.

The Captain made friends everywhere he went. He had a network of friends spanning the Caribbean and many powerful names in international football. Let this be a lesson to you: networking is important. Make friends wherever you go, and build good relationships with people.

10. Vision and determination.

In his own words: “Vision and determination are qualities which are critical to the accomplishment of any endeavour. … My vision for football is quite clear. It is to carry the standard of our game to a level never before experienced. The potential for Jamaican football has never been realised because of a number of factors. We intend to correct those anomalies by providing the leadership needed to take our football where it ought to be.” Clearly, the Captain has a vision for Jamaica’s football, and was very determined to do what was necessary to realise that hope. Many would agree that indeed, he did.