You may remember a blog entry/rant I made here on February 19th about hiring and cronyism. Well it seems that the Director of Aviation at that flight department (I think his actual title is Vice President for Flight Operations), has now filled every leadership position in the flight department with cronies from his former company – a fractional operator that treated its pilots so poorly they voted to unionize in July of last year. The gentleman in question was the VP for Flight Operations at that company as well and the fact that he changed jobs shortly after the vote for unionization at his former company is, in all likelihood, not a coincidence. This Director/VP was hired to unite a flight department that had some serious issues, but also had some serious talent. But rather than attempt to inspire and unite, this particular gentlemen chose, instead, to surround himself with lackeys from his former company and create a pool of “yes-men” who will do his bidding without protest. The flight department is now in chaos, no member of the rank and file trusts him and they are circulating their resumes in earnest, attempting to leave a place they view as a sinking ship. Meanwhile, this gentlemen believes he is quite the leader and that he is doing the best thing for the operation.
This guy may be clueless, but at least he’s arrogant. And the real problem is, he’s not alone. There are plenty more where he came from. I’ve heard equally demoralizing stories about a flight department director in New England and another in the Midwest, both of whom are despised by their people, have generated extremely high turnover, and yet are protected by senior management above them.
It’s guys like this that have led me to begin work on a book about no-nonsense, tactical leadership for flight department. The sad fact is that that there isn’t much real leadership in our industry. There is plenty of politics, cronyism, brown-nosing, accession by seniority, and even some decent management from time to time, but leadership, real leadership, is hard to come by. In fairness, the industry doesn’t really encourage it. Corporate aviation is a lot about maintaining a low-key, low-visibility presence and isn’t about vision or bold decision making or taking care of people, so the environment doesn’t favor those who possess true leadership skills. It does, however, favor professional managers and politicians and these are the people who often ascend to positions of responsibility in our industry, just as they are the people who ascend to the top in corporations.
This is the reason I have a love/hate relationship with our industry. A flight department or a charter/management company, when it is well led, reminds me of my time in a fighter squadron when the focus was on the mission and the unit members were there for one another. They followed the “boss” because they respected him and they believed in him. They enjoyed coming to work and they enjoyed serving others. But more often than not in our industry, the person in charge of a flight department is more concerned with the politics than his subordinates and more concerned with how he looks to his boss than how he is respected and trusted by his people. And in the latter case, those in charge don’t understand how transparent their behavior is or how demoralizing it can be. So the potential that business aviation has for those who are able to lead and those who want to follow is enormous, but the reality rarely lives up to the potential and the industry plays along, pretending all is well.
So as I continue to write on this subject, more will follow. I’ve never been one to keep my mouth shut or my pen still when I see something that disturbs me. And those who present poor leadership examples should be taken to task.