“Advice Hiding In ‘Plane’ Sight”—About Enthusiastic Leadership…

“Enthusiasm is the greatest asset you can possess,
for it can take you further than money, power, or influence.”

Dada Vaswani

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Flying and business transitions…

Every summer, I try to make a trip across the pond. Last month, I was fortunate to return to Switzerland and hike the Engadine Valley. I love to travel, although I have to admit there are three stages of flying that I am not particularly fond of — take-offs, turbulence, and landings.

Over the years, I’ve likened these three stages of flying to transitions within an organization. For example—

  • Taking off is the stage when a newcomer to the organization comes on board to lead a team—or when a new product is introduced.
  • Turbulence represents the rockiness an organization experiences that comes with transitions and change, like the first 90 days.
  • Landing represents a moment of truth when the organization has to face whether or not it has any staying power—or whether another change may be needed.


My story begins…

Last month, I boarded the 787 Dreamliner for my flight to Switzerland. I was so excited that I bounded up the aisle to take a peak into the cockpit. The door was open and the pilots welcomed my entrance with an infectious enthusiasm.

They were quick to share with me that the 787 Dreamliner is the best in the fleet. They proudly claimed that it flies higher and faster than any other plane. Impressed, I asked them where I could buy a 787 Dreamliner baseball cap. As they looked at each other and then at me with some bemusement, they uttered those three words that no one likes to hear: “We don’t’ know,” they said. They then suggested I research Boeing’s website and, if no cap were to be found, I should suggest they start selling caps. And through all of this chatter about caps, their excited and infectious enthusiasm never once wavered.

The flight…

Settling into my seat, I was absolutely taken by the pilots’ enthusiasm. As I familiarized myself with the different ways my seat maneuvered, this was all I could think of. The seat, incidentally, was better than any lazy boy!  🙂

Next thing I knew, we were in the air. I hadn’t even noticed we had taken off. What? How could I have missed that? Is this airplane truly so different than all the others? Or was it my super-comfy luxurious seat that distracted me? No, I decided, it was the pilots’ enthusiasm that had totally captured my attention. That was the reason I had missed the take-off!

I wondered if somehow there could be some profound advice buried in this experience for me—advice that was perhaps lying in “plane” sight?


An epiphany…

As I pondered this, I thought about how some leaders can set themselves apart by ensuring smooth transitions and changes for their organization.

I was struck by how the genuine enthusiasm of the pilots had made the take-off so seamless for me.  Could it be, I wondered, that genuine enthusiasm is actually the core of successful leadership?

Reflecting upon my experience flying in the 787 Dreamliner, I thought about how a leader who has an open-door policy and who greets customers or clients with an enthusiastic smile, while reassuring them of the quality of their products or services, surely this has to give those customers or clients a sense of being valued? Surely, I thought, this has to set them apart from other leaders who may not do this?


The gift this story offers…

Enthusiastic leadership can make smoother the inevitable transitions and turbulence of change that every organization experiences. What’s needed is the same type of infectious enthusiasm and genuine confidence in their products and services that the Dreamliner pilots displayed.

I thought about how the Dreamliner flew higher at 41,000 feet and faster at 650 mph than most other planes. I thought about how an exemplary leader is one who is willing to exceed and break through existing market limitations and raise the bar of excellence for the entire organization.

Flying on the 787 Dreamliner was a wonderful and uplifting  experience for me, with each stage being seamless. As the plane taxied up to the gate in Zurich, I marveled at how refreshing this was—and how some of the pilots’ enthusiasm had rubbed off on me. I walked off the jet with a new appreciation for great leadership. I marveled at how this could make stages of transition so seamless for both the team and the customer. And this all began with enthusiasm that turned out to be a dynamic escort to begin my travels.