New keynote: The Wingmate Effect—Collective Leadership in Turbulent Times

Keynote: The Wingman Effect
By Thomas Barta
Last updated: November 21, 2023

This year, I had the chance to craft a significant new keynote titled “The Wingmate Effect—Collective leadership in Turbulent Times.” I thought you might be interested in the key ideas.

Leading change—together

After a hiatus from travel, I was fortunate to reconnect with leaders across four continents, to discuss strategies for change leadership. “Disruption” became the common thread in these conversations. Many companies today are in the midst of a perfect storm—battling inflation, digital upheaval, supply chain breakdowns, the rise of Artificial Intelligence, you name it. Every leader I met was at the helm of some kind of “accelerated transformation.”

Interestingly, their approaches diverge. Some leaders embrace the role of a lone disruptor, charging ahead with their vision, sometimes in isolation from their teams. Too often, this solo flight leads to a crash landing.

There’s a more successful archetype: leaders who rally their teams, know when to push and when to support, drawing from the collective strength of their crew. I’ve come to call them Wingmates. A CEO friend of mine once told me: “I may be the boss, but I don’t call the shots, I lead the team that does.” He’s right.

Just look around: Satya Nadella’s team has steered Microsoft’s towards a mobile and cloud-centric future, Alan Mulally rescued Ford from the brink of bankruptcy, Michele Buck’s team is driving The Hershey Company back on a growth trajectory. What do all of these successes have in common? A collective effort. The “Wingmate Effect” works.

Here’s the big idea

Change—like turbulence—can strike without warning. Markets shift, technologies evolve, crises emerge. In these turbulent times, leading for success isn’t a solo flight. It’s about generating the ‘Wingmate Effect’—the power of leading as a team. For the wingmate, trust is the co-pilot, collaboration is the guide, and resilience is the common port of call. Creating the Wingmate effect isn’t a one-off gig. We’ll talk about how to:

  • Hit the head and the heart—create a unifying vision
  • Focus on our unique strengths—explore the power of distributed decision-making
  • Let the tech play—leverage technology faster and across the organization
  • Start the dance—but don’t try to control every move
  • Lead from behind—empower others to take the lead
  • Have a good fight—employ facts to resolve issues and emotions to strengthen bonds

I’ve witnessed the Wingmate Effect firsthand while leading global teams, and in the boardrooms of multinational corporations during my work across 50 countries. Let’s celebrate these tales of triumph—and teach more leaders how to become real Wingmates.

Keynote audiences

  • Organizations involved in business transformations, digital transformations, culture transformations.
  • The C-suite, top teams, change leaders, project leaders
  • Individuals at all levels where collaborative change leadership is pivotal for success.

Keynote formats

18-45 minutes


This keynote is particularly powerful at the beginning of a day. Through a mix of facts, stories, and examples, it sets the tone for collective leadership.