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What are the characteristics of leaders- and can they be taught? By Jack Olcott
Business Aviation has matured since the days following World War II when the likes of General Lucius Clay applied their personal knowledge of air mobility to American industry.
With experience gained initially as Director of Material logistics during the conflict in Europe and subsequently as chief organizer of the Berlin Airlift while serving as military governor of the U.S Zone in Germany between 1947 and 1949- Clay introduced Business Aviation to the Continental Can Company when he was selected to be its CEO in 1950. Overseeing a fleet that grew to six aircraft- including a surplus C-87 Liberator Express (cargo version of the B-24 bomber) and a converted B- 26 Marauder- he toured all of Con Can’s 150 plants once each year- usually with as little as 24-hours advanced notice. Aviation personnel served at his pleasure.
Even as recently as the latter part of the 1900s- flight departments were run as virtual extensions of the Chief Executive’s office. Budgets- per se- were non-existent. The Chief Pilot of a leading Fortune 500 company told me that originally he had no requirement to plan expenditures. When he told the Chairman that something was needed- a check was forthcoming from the CEO’s office.
Since the 1990s- however- management practices have changed. As Business Aviation gained acceptance as an important resource- many companies required the same oversight and professionalism for the flight department as for other business units.
Business Credentials For Aviators
As stated in the following Walter Kraujalis article- ‘Training to be an Aviation Manager’ (p80 of this issue of World Aircraft Sales Magazine)- the skill set that best supports an individual’s management objectives does not align naturally with the disciplines associated with those of a pilot or maintenance specialist.
Such reality need not discourage those who wish to succeed in management- however. Nor should the would-be manager of aviation put all other efforts aside to pursue a Masters’ Degree in Business Administration. While highly desirable- an MBA is not within everyone’s time or dollar budgets. Alternatives exist- such as the National Business Aviation Association’s Professional Development Program (PDP) and the Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) certification that the Association initiated.
To encourage and support the education of flight department managers- World Aircraft Sales Magazine is offering several articles that align with the resources available to those who seek careers in management. While not presuming to be substitutes for more formal or structured offerings- we trust our readers will find the material presented to be insightful and meaningful as they seek to expand their management knowledge and skill.
The ‘L’ Word
Leadership is integral to all curricula for managers. Thus it is understandable that the subject has many dimensions and provokes many points of view. In this article and several that will follow in subsequent months- we offer many perspectives on leadership- hopefully to stimulate your interest in flight department management and to encourage your pursuit of the educational opportunities available to aviators.
Where possible- we will draw your attention to references that are readily available. The late Dr. J. Rufus Fears- Ph.D.- professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma and a frequent contributor to the Teaching Company’s The Great Courses series- noted that effective leaders and statesmen exhibited at least four core attributes:
• A Vision of what they are attempting to achieve for the team they lead
• Uncompromising values based upon a bedrock of principles
• A moral compass • The ability to articulate their Vision in terms that resonate with those they wish to lead.
Recognized leaders score well when measured against these four attributes. Thomas Jefferson was a student of history and various forms of principled governance- as were other Founding Fathers of the USA. Jefferson in particular- and also Madison- were gifted writers. Winston Churchill had a clear vision of what he wanted for the British people as well as the Western world during WWII- and his mastery of oratory moved his nation to share that vision- endure great hardship and eventually achieve victory.
Whether positioned before thousands in auditoriums such as New York City’s Madison Square Garden or speaking via radio from the White House for his “fireside” chats to a frightened American public during the Great Depression- President Franklin Roosevelt was known for his ability to inspire his audience. Dr. Martin Luther King- meanwhile- changed history with his vision of civil rights and his compelling rhetoric.
Students of management may not aspire to pen the Declaration of Independence or shape life-changing legislation- but they would be wise to appreciate the power of vision- governing principles- virtue and compelling communications. Dr. Fears’ four attributes of leadership are well worth perfecting.
Reference: “The Wisdom of History”; Professor J. Rufus Fears; 2007; The Teaching Company- Chantilly- VA.