Captain Matt McGraw, a 30-year-old marine helicopter pilot, shared with a group of 450 people a few days ago, his views on leadership. His speech had all of the wow factor trimmings, which resulted in an eruption of a wildly-cheering standing ovation from 400+ college prep high school young men in Cleveland, Ohio. The young captain spoke of some of the essential attributes of a good leader: proficiency, dedication, accountability, perseverance, and detachment.
And while these leadership characteristics may have a familiar common thread for many of us, it was detachment that caught my ear. At first blush, detachment might seem counter-intuitive to the manner in which we engage with our co-workers, colleagues, life mates, friends, clients and prospects. Yet, it is precisely what is called upon in a time of intense concerns and profound challenges. The story that Captain McGraw shared with our riveted audience several days ago was how, with a focused resolve, he was able to impart to his men – his team – that they had lost 4 of their finest (and by the way, they are all the “finest.”) when the helicopter went down.
He shared that he had to face his troop with directness and a strong demeanor so that he could model and reflect the strength that they too, would need to acquire. When asked of the most difficult thing he had ever done, it was this story of facing his men to impart the tragic news while mustering his own resiliency and strength of spirit.
And it got me to thinking about leadership qualities that we use off the battlefield. I am a believer that we are all leaders – that we have inherent strengths and gifts that are called upon at the right time, in the right place. In order to allow these gifts to surface, we need to perhaps recognize that we ought to have a presence of detachment so that our emotional containers do not runneth over.
In challenging situations, what do you do in order for your emotional energy to take a back seat? If there is a discrepancy with a co-worker or a client, what innate leadership qualities are called forth?
Captain McGraw recognized that his priority was his troop; he put his emotions aside and had the welfare of his charges front and center. Putting other’s first, being other-oriented, is one way in which we are shaped as leaders. What strengths can you identify that reflect your leadership?