It’s been about three months now that I have been pondering the concept of Heroic Engagement. If we (as leaders) heroically engage high potential individuals, we can advance and develop leadership and eventually improve the world. We exist in an age that is very familiar with what has been deemed a crisis in leadership. What are we going to do about it?
In the USAF we have a concept referred to as The Wingman program–a type of buddy system. In the Air Force we aircraft fly in formation for two reasons–1) mutual support and 2) increased firepower; and there is goodness in that depending on the qualities and training of your wingman.
My question: Do we need just any unqualified wingmen in our lives? Someone who sits in a #2 position and observes us do something. Or, do we need a hero that will stand up and engage us when we are about to do something less than brilliant?
By definition, a hero is a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities. Engagement is to cause someone to become involved.
Are you a hero? Are you engaged? Many people avoid engagement. Some fear being disliked and rejected, and others are afraid engagement will make things worse by creating anger and resentment. Is you wingman a hero or is he simply unqualified in the aircraft? Will he engage when you need him? If your wingman is a hero he will understand that avoiding the engagement always worsens the situation and in some cases gives the adversary the advantage. Heroic engagement can be a win-win situation–a chance to help and to develop leadership, assuming it is done with the courage and the noble qualities of a hero.
Heroic engagement looks like this:
Address the wrong actions, not the person
Confront only what the person can change
Give the person the benefit of the doubt
Avoid words like “always” and “never”
If appropriate–tell the person how you fell about what was done wrong
Give the person a game plan to fix the problem
Affirm him or her as a person, a friend, and a wingman
Each time we engage a person with the courage and the nobel qualities of a hero we give people an opportunity to grow, and through heroic engagement we can advance leadership and improve the world.
Points above modified from John C. Maxwell’s “Developing the Leaders Around You.”