I teach leadership and human connection all over the world.
I teach it in the private sector, I teach it in the public sector, Top 10 banks, nonprofits, law enforcement, and special operations forces, and what I see consistently these days is that leadership is primarily focused in the context of the job or work that a person is in. And when the sun sets on that, they’re done. They walk away. I see it enough that it concerns me.
I was brought up to understand that leadership is forever.
Real leadership is forever and I saw this on display time and time again, particularly in combat in Afghanistan, and after Afghanistan.
The guy that showed me this was Chief Warrant Officer ‘Romy’ Camargo. On his third tour to Afghanistan, he was wounded, shot through the throat in Zabul province with an injury that, by all accounts, should have taken his life.
Medic Steve Hill performed an amazing tracheotomy and kept Camargo breathing while the rest of the team pulled security. The team then fought their way out of a riverbed and medically evacuated him via chopper. Flight medics moved Camargo to Landstuhl, Germany, and then on to the United States. He continued to recover along the way, but what strikes me about this is that the leadership that was displayed at every level shows how leadership is forever.
Camargo had established himself as an amazing combat leader well before that firefight occurred. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be near when things went south. When things got bad, he always knew what to do. He was always first into the fight, leading from the front. He took care of his men, he took care of his families. He loved them more than life itself and he demonstrated that through action and deed, all the time. Not just in battle, but in the small moments. He made sure that his team was close when they were back home. He made sure that his men and their families were taken care of. He would fight for them viciously because leadership is forever.
So when things took a turn, and Camargo was the one that was hit, his team took over. They didn’t panic. Because of the way he led and because of the way he empowered his men, they stepped up. They realized it was their moment to lead and after Camargo was medically evacuated, they continued the mission. They continued the mission and pushed on because that’s what leadership means.
Leadership is forever.
And then when Camargo got back home, the team would call and check on him. Those of us that were home in D.C. would go and spend time with him. Old teammates would sit with him while he went through surgery. We would sit with his wife, Gaby, because leadership is forever.
They told Camargo he would never walk again, he would never leave the hospital, he would never breathe on his own again. But eventually he learned to breathe on his own again and he left the hospital. Despite not being able to walk, he and his wife, Gaby, have opened a premier spinal cord injury center called Stay In Step. There, he helps other veterans and other spinal cord injury patients get back on their feet, or learn to gain new movements or quality of life again because leadership is forever.
Camargo could have easily retired with 100 percent disability. He earned it; in fact, a lot of people encouraged him to do that, but that didn’t happen. Because he understands that leadership is forever. His teammates still come see him to this day. They participate at Stay in Step. They still have team parties. They still take care of each other, because leadership is forever.
And I think…what if we did that in our lives? What if we shifted our mindset and thought about leadership that way? What if you thought about your associates and your employees like that? What if you viciously fought for them? What if you stayed in touch with them after you parted ways because leadership is forever? What if we asked thoughtful, open-ended questions when someone at work seems distant or disconnected, or angry, and we actually figured out what’s going on?
When we change our mindset and meet them where they are—not where we want them to be—we figure out that they’ve actually got other things going on. Maybe those are issues at home, a severe loss in the family, or they’re suffering from depression or dependency of some kind. Because leadership is forever and it lives in those small moments. Those are the moments before things go high order, the moments where you take care of your people and you connect. That’s when you look out for them, and you never quit on them. Because, you guessed it, leadership is forever.
That’s something that Camargo and the men of ODA7111 taught me, and I’ll never forget it.
I hope you use it in your life and I’ll see you on the rooftop.
Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He is the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on TV and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit RooftopLeadership.com