Brian Bennett and Andrew Coleman recently wrote a book entitled Go Big AND Go Home, which opens with the following quote by L. P. Jacks:

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

Over 15 years ago, Bennett, who was second-in-command at a large church organization, started interviewing others in second-in-command roles across a wide variety of businesses and other organizations, including leaders in business, politics, an NFL backup quarterback, PGA golf caddies, NASCAR pit crew members, and more. From those discussions, he studied outcomes and then developed the concept of a “Wingman Mindset,” which focuses on “we vs. me.” In other words, by focusing on being a support to your boss, as well as supporting your team (re: “team player”) while leading your own team with integrity and balance, you’re able to naturally grow yourself and achieve career goals while fostering growth in others. Being the best support possible directly affects your own leadership style.

Bennett was invited to GE Aviation (a division of General Electric) where he gave a presentation on the Wingman Mindset. Coleman—then acting Chief Commercial Officer (COO)—decided that the concept needed to be vetted and applied to the team’s daily interactions and leadership style. GE Aviation hired Bennett to guide them in becoming better “wingmen” and “wingwomen.”

Bennett and Coleman contend organizations should recognize and encourage the “second-in-command” leaders—leaders who seek to support their leaders while also inspiring and leading their subordinates. They posit that “Wingman” leaders who facilitate a service-before-self culture promote collaboration and trust within the team, as well as with clients. Again, they assert Wingmen are more about “We than Me.”

“Go Big AND Go Home” is what Bennett refers to as the Wingman secret sauce, with the word “AND” playing a crucial role. The “AND” allows for enough credit to go around and room to share success with others. In fact the authors lay out the following examples of outcomes that occur when allowing for “AND” in the Wingman concept:
• Providing services AND products
• Building relationships AND selling solutions
• Giving (voice of customer) AND receiving (collateral)
• Growing your career AND doing what’s best for your team
• Contributing both as an individual AND as a teammate
• Serving your customer AND your teammate’s customer AND your customer’s customer

You can see how each of the above examples combines the goals of both an individual and his or her team. Wingmen don’t need to sacrifice for the team; quite the opposite: by supporting their team, their individual needs and goals are also met.
Another concept emphasized in Go Big AND Go Home is the difference between a human being and human doing. According to Bennett and Coleman, ““If you take care of your people as human beings they will perform better as human doings.” They assert that those who are well-balanced in both their personal and professional areas of life are much better able to perform in both areas. Those overly focused on work may struggle with personal relationships; those too overwhelmed by personal issues may struggle to thrive at their work. Choosing AND allows you to bring the best version of yourself to all areas of your life.

The final piece of Go Big AND Go Home is what the authors refer to as “going home,” which they describe as “that safe place in a busy life where you recharge, refresh, and rebuild.” Essentially, it’s a place or activity that makes you feel whole. Bennett and Coleman use the example of a burned-out pharmaceutical sales representative who was able to reignite his passion by revisiting his former photography hobby. Photography grounded him and refreshed his perspective—providing a feeling similar to being home. Bennett posits that identifying and regularly “visiting” this place or activity can help us refresh and refill our tanks. When we are depleted as human beings, we pay the price as human doings.

If you’re interested in learning more about Wingman leadership, you can visit Brian Bennett’s LinkedIn page:


Photo by Matthew Ball