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Lead and Grow with Fortitude

A Premature Death

The idea of leading by example is dead. Every would-be leader of this great nation is displaying behavior and spewing out enough abusive comments that would land a child in time-out for a lifetime.

Political candidates are not the only examples of poor leadership behavior. Far too many executives are saying things to their subordinates and demonstrating behavior that should land them in the unemployment line. Sadly, they are receiving bonuses.

Why? I would offer it is the lack of backbone, better said—courage. Many senior leaders just don’t get out of the clouds long enough to see what is going on in their organizations. The P&L looks good. No need to rock the boat.

Just when you think all is lost, there it is–a demonstration of leadership. It was so much in the face for all to see, not many noticed.

On a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix, an aircrew was “dead-heading” to Phoenix. That is, they were passengers, not flying the plane. The flight from between the two cities is a wonderfully short flight, less than an hour. It is, however, a relatively packed flight.

After the “dead-heading” crew had found their seats, the demonstration began.

One of the crewmembers, left his seat, began to assist everyone around him to stow their luggage in the overhead spaces. He did not stop with that more than polite gesture to the passengers. After the flight had reached altitude, the crewmember left his seat and reappeared passing out the onboard snacks. Moreover, he passed them out with a smile and enthusiasm that made passengers smile in return.

Upon arrival in Phoenix, our more than enthusiastic, “dead-heading” crewmember once again assisted every passenger within reach of his seat in retrieving their luggage from the overhead space. He did so with a smile and a comment “have a nice day; hope you fly with us again.”

What is essential to bring to your attention, you students of leadership, there was no fanfare. He did not make any “look-at-me,” “aren’t I a great guy” gestures or comments. Rather, he was low key, just another day, doing what is right because it is right. He was leading by example to all the crewmembers both “dead-heading” and on duty. And he was leading by example to all of us who recognized he was not just any crewmember. It was easy to see from the broad stripes across his shoulder boards he was a pilot; not just any pilot a Captain, command pilot.

As we departed the plane, I was able to catch-up to him. I told him that leadership is my business and that I saw what he was doing on that airplane. I explained how leading by example is the strongest leadership trait any leader can have, and a trait that seems to be dying. It was a pleasure to see him in action.

He gave no comments on his leadership theory or why he did what he did on the plane. He gave me a broad smile, and said: “Thank you, I hope you fly with us again!”

Southwest Airlines, you need to find Capt. Jason Ross and thank him. The idea that leading by example is dead may be premature.

© 2016 by John Boggs all rights reserved.