Great leaders are high performance machines. Wise leaders are high performance machine factories. The best of the best understand the value of purposeful replication of themselves in others. It takes work, patience, vulnerability, trust, and some soul searching.
Most leaders will agree with the idea of reproducing themselves in others. I mean, its like world peace…or air…everybody wants it. Everybody knows its a good idea, but few actually know how to do it. How do we become so purposeful in our leadership that we become marked not by how many times we’ve taken the lead, but by how many times we’ve given it away?
The movie Top Gun illustrates my point exactly. It not only underscores the importance of a strong wingman, it also reminds us how socially advantageous it can be to have a cool call sign, a sweet bike, and a jet…thats another story however.
The military describes the function of the wingman like this:
“The wingman’s role is to add an element of mutual support to aerial combat. The presence of a wingman makes the flight both offensively and defensively more capable by increasing firepower and situational awareness, permitting the attack of enemies, and increasing the ability to employ more dynamic tactics.”
The summary statement is that you are bigger, badder, and better together. The mental image of the planes working as one helps us move into some practical territory. The crux of the film is Maverick’s struggle to understand that leadership actually means taking a big dose of “followship.” His call sign already lets us know that he has a hard time working and playing well with others. With the introduction of the Iceman,… (clench teeth now), he is forced to trade independence with interdependence.
A wise leader embraces this idea of interdependence and uses it to teach. Dave Ferguson gives us a great method for the interaction between a mentor and protege, or in our case between you and your wingman. Here are the stages he describes in his book Exponential:
- I do. You watch. We talk.
- I do. You help. We talk.
- You do. I help. We talk.
- You do. I watch. We talk.
- You do. Someone else watches.
By understanding this method of mentoring, you can cultivate a wingman who will be challenged to then reproduce the same method in his or her own life. Worship leaders, ministry leaders, marketplace leaders, and parents can benefit by purposeful leadership. One day we will look around and see a fleet of leaders at our side and see that it was of benefit to them as well.
Stephen Smith (@stephenandstar) serves on the Leadership Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. He shepherds four teams within the church: Music, Multisite, Media, and Marketing. He spends the remainder of his time these days with his head in a book or dealing with an unruly yard. His passion is leading worship through song with his wife Star and leveraging their lives to see ministry multiplied in their home church and beyond.