Sometimes you need to be a Wingman

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Written by Robert Manigold

September 1, 2015

Sometimes you need to be a Wingman

Leading from the middle of the pack takes a certain mindset.

John Maxwell is regarded by many as one of the foremost authorities of our day in the field of Leadership. He has defined Leadership as "the ability to exert influence" and this is usually only thought of with regard to being "the boss" or occupying the highest position in an organization. One thing that has stuck in my my about Leadership is the concept of "Leading from the middle of the pack".

I want to focus on what has been proposed as the role of someone who leads from within the middle of the pack: The Wingman (Only because Wingperson doesn't sound as cool and wasn't the word used in Top Gun)

Let's walk through the tips that the post give to be a better Wingman (Italicized comments are mine):

What can you do to become a better wingman?

Invest in relational chemistry. Get to know what makes your leaders tick, their style of decision-making, their values, etc. You want to earn their trust and to be able to anticipate their actions.

- Do you take the time to know your Leader personally?  Have you made an investment into your relationship with your Leader?  Both of these things are foundational to a relationship with your Leader and that which trust is built upon.

Be prepared every time you take your leader’s time. Making the most of your leader’s time not only communicates respect but also showcases your commitment to the team.

-Because productivity involves the journey of trimming waste, the most valuable way you can work toward this is to be prepared when you directly engage your Leader.  Don't ever waste their time and they will look at you as an invaluable asset rather than an inconvenience.

Know when to push and when to back off. Given your unique vantage point in the organization, you inevitably will have some knowledge your leader lacks. The key is to know when giving your input will aid your leader in reaching a decision and when it will merely complicate matters.

-Do you have the confidence to know when to push back on an idea or an approach to a problem that your Leader has proposed?  If you have taken care of the foundation of the relationship and invested productive time without wasting the time of your Leader he or she is much more likely to listen to you when you have feedback that is crucial to your organization.  Know when to talk and when to listen and you will be a much better wingman (or wingperson).

Be better tomorrow than you are today. Nothing impresses a leader like a self-motivated performer. As you demonstrate growing capacity for responsibility, more will be given to you.

Yeah, what he said. Be better tomorrow than you are today. I'm working on it and don't always succeed. But my trajectory isn't going to change because of failure.