One of my consistent gripes with the business aviation industry is the degree to which those who perform the line tasks are undervalued by those in leadership positions and treated less like people and more as tools or blunt objects. Now, I’m not going to embark on some sort of proletariat versus bourgeoisie rant here. I’ve held nearly every leadership position in flying organizations in the military and since my retirement in both 14 C.F.R Part 135 operations and now in a 14 C.F.R Part 91 corporate flight department – so I get the leadership perspective here. But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my nearly 30 years of aviation leadership is the importance of people. The people who work with you and for you are everything. They are what makes the operation turn, they are what makes the operation better, they are what makes the operation a joy to be a part of. If you, as a leader, take care of them, they will take care of you. They’ll have your back.
But there are those to whom appearance is more important that doing the right thing; those who sacrifice their people on the altar of appearances. There is no quicker way for someone in a leadership position to inspire distrust and suspicion on the part of his or her subordinates than to prioritize his or her appearance above doing the right thing for his or her people. And here’s something those in leadership positions need to understand – actions speak louder than words. You can say all the things you want about how great you think your people are, but if you don’t fight for them and you treat them poorly, a time will come when you need them to have your back – and they won’t.
You’ll be all alone.
General Eisenhower had a quote from a long time ago that I’ve always liked. “Leadership,” he said, “is the art of getting someone to do something you want them to do because they want to do it.” Taking care of your people gets them to want to take care of you. Taking advantage of them to make yourself look better will eventually come back to haunt you. It’s just a question of time.