Coaching Blog – How to Weave Stronger Bonds in Leadership

Major life experiences shared with someone generally create a strong bond, don’t they? From hardship and challenges to victories and celebrations, people are irrevocably woven together by pivotal moments in personal history. 

Recently the Vietnam POW organization celebrated the 50th reunion of our release in the first quarter of 1973, and the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots association* (aka RiverRats) will also celebrate its 50th anniversary reunion this October. It was our common mission and combat experience many years ago that bonded us together, and the consistent re-connection during the last five decades has helped us grow healthier.

Bonding is a term that I’ve seen recently that describes how wounded warriors have overcome incredible tragedies. It’s also a great term to describe what the POWs did in the Hanoi POW camps as well as the POW/MIA wives were doing back home to overcome trauma and suffering.

My brief coaching clip this month goes deeper on this topic. Please watch, and then continue reading the blog below –


Building Bonds in the Workplace

Bonding is also very powerful in any workplace. Let me explain. In leadership workshops over the past 25 years, I’ve often done the “My Greatest Leader” exercise. I ask each person in the class to think of the person who was their greatest leader and share the one attribute that made them special. The most frequent response has consistently been: They listened to me.


“When you listen to someone, they feel important. They believe you care about them and respect them.” [Tweet This]


Furthermore, the vast majority of the responses in that exercise were relationship-oriented, making it clear that when you show empathy for someone’s challenges and emotions, it creates a bond of respect and caring.

Another Dramatic Bonding Example

Recently this idea of bonding has come up in a new best-selling book, Unbroken — Bonds of Battle by Johnny Joey Jones, a horrifically wounded veteran from the Iraq/Afghanistan war.

Joey shares great stories of warriors from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who were blown up by IEDs, and the battles they had to overcome their pain and suffering. Joey lost both legs in an explosion that killed one of his best friends. Can you imagine, not only the physical pain, but also the emotional trauma?

Joey’s great book empathizes the power of bonding and being connected at the heart with your teammates. It parallels what we talked about in our new book Captured by Love, of how the men survived the torture in the camps and how the women survived living without knowing if their husbands and sons were dead or alive.

The Miraculous Bond of Roger and Booncy

In one of our romance stories, fighter pilot Roger Ingvalson lost his best friend Wayne Fullam, who was shot down and Missing in Action (MIA). He escorted Wayne’s wife and three sons back to be near her family in Chattanooga. Then a year later, Roger was shot down and captured and was a POW for five years. Sadly, Roger’s wife died two years before he came home, and his son had to move to New England to be with his grandparents.

At the end of the war, when we were released, Roger came home, but his friend Wayne did not and was declared KIA (Killed in Action). So, Roger went to see his friend Wayne’s widow Booncy, who had also been a friend of his wife.

(Pictured: Roger & Booncy Ingvalson)


Guess what? Their losses helped them to bond quickly, and they were engaged within three months and married in six months. They raised her three sons and his son as one happy family. The boys bonded also and are still close.

The Bottom Line

Bonding with others is crucial for good mental health and commitment to a team. Yet, most of us must be intentional to connect with people’s hearts. Bonding comes when we respectfully listen to them and show empathy—that they are important, and we care about them.  All the research shows that leaders who care about their people and teams that care about each other have greater mission success.

So, be intentional about adapting your behaviors to show others that you care—especially those on your team at work, those who share your profession, and groups in your community – and especially with your family.

LE [Tweet this Article]


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Captured by Love shares the real love stories of 20 Vietnam War POWs. Some had wives who started a movement that changed American foreign policy. Others came home and had to start over, while five single men met the loves of their lives.

Former POW Lee Ellis and love expert Greg Godek take you on a dramatic journey of faithfulness, passion, excitement, resilience, and practical love lessons from these couples.

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*Source: The first RiverRat Reunion was after the POWs came home in Las Vegas (August 1973) and this years will be in October at the new RiverRat Museum in Bowling Green KY.

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