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What makes a good leader

By Scott Moore
Human Leadership Guru

Leadership can take many forms, from inspirational to quietly encouraging. Effective leadership pays dividends when it comes to personnel retention and motivation, and is also extremely valuable in non-group settings, such as one-on-one mentoring.
So, aviation professional, can I ask you a personal question?  Are you a good leader?

If I asked you if you’re a good pilot, or a good maintenance technician, or a good customer service representative, you might tell me about all the training you’ve received, the standards that you meet, and the certifications behind your name.

You might tell me about the awards that you’ve received, or the positive feedback you received from your manager or a customer. So as a leader, what training have you received? Have you asked for and received feedback on a regular basis? Have you done a “leadership recurrent” recently?

You might say to me, “I’m not a manager or supervisor.  I’m not the aviation department manager.  What does leadership have to do with me?” And this is where people get confused between leadership and management.
Management is about getting the job done, and this requires a certain level of authority in order to make things happen. Leadership is about people, and can be practiced by anyone.

What am I talking about when I speak of leadership?  My favorite definition is the one used at my last company: “Leadership is a choice, not a title – it’s a conscious choice, firstly to work on yourself, and in turn to have a positive  impact on the lives of those around you.” I like this definition because it states that, as leaders, we must first look within ourselves, to determine our true values are, our style, our biases, and our beliefs.

We must explore the behaviors we exhibit that might be having a negative influence on the people around us, and which skills are weak and need development and improvement. We need to identify our strengths and learn how we can best use them to compensate for other areas.

The first step of leadership is to look in the mirror and see who we truly are, which may be difficult for some of us. Fortunately, we have a large cast of observers in our daily life who may be willing to tell us, if we ask.

Family members, coworkers, and friends see us through their eyes and are an incredible source of feedback, if you choose to receive it. One exercise I have the attendees in my leadership workshop do is to send a text to 3 people in their lives, asking them to send back 3 words that describe them at their best, and 3 words that describe them at their worst. Once you get a response, you can look at the feedback and see if there is truth there.

Why is it important to be a good leader?  With today’s tight labor market, it is important to attract and retain quality people for your organization. An engaged employee is one who shows up ready to work, is happy to be there, and is willing to work above and beyond at their job.

Globally, engaged employees compose approximately 30% of the workforce. The rest of the employees are there only to do the minimum work required and receive their paycheck.

Aviation professionals practice leading developmental conversations – a technique for better communication – at the NBAA “Leading with a Vision” PDP course in Nashville, January 2023.

The primary motivating factor when determining whether an employee is engaged is the organizational climate, or how it feels for them to come to work every day. This is more important in employee engagement than salary, benefits, time off, or any other incentive.

Organizational climate has a 30% effect on performance outcomes.  What this means is that, by investing in a better organizational climate, you are leveraging a 30% increase in performance outcomes.

So how do you do that?  Leadership. Leaders of an organization have a 70% influence on the climate, on how it feels for an employee to come to work every day. As you look through your own work experience, I’m sure you have had those jobs where you did not like to come to work.

And if you think about it, it is probably due to one person – your boss. In fact, when an employee leaves an organization, 80% of the time they are leaving their leader, rather than the company.

The Society of Human Resource Management reported recently that, on average, it costs a company 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace them. Nationwide, turnover costs businesses $1 trillion each year.

These costs include advertising the position, hiring a recruiter, time and wages spent reviewing candidates and interviewing, and time spent by other employees who are taking on the work of the person who left. In addition, once the employee is hired, it can be 6 months to a year before they can work completely independently.

Hopefully, you have seen how important leadership is to an organization, and we haven’t even mentioned the positive impact a good leader can make on the people around them, inspiring them and helping them achieve positive results.

Many of you are in the position that you are in today due to the influence of a leader from your past. A good leader is able to ignite the potential of the people around them, and the results of that can be exponential.

Now let’s return to my original question. How good a leader are you? More importantly, how can you become a better leader? In the book Resident Leadership, by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, the authors state that one essential quality of a leader is mindfulness. Mindfulness allows the leader to go deep, to analyze themselves, and to be able to adapt to the situation and the people around them.

You can attend classes and workshops, and you can read all the latest books on leadership. In order to make lasting change, however, you need to sustain the changes, with accountability. Attending a leadership conference is an amazing experience, but if you forget everything when you go home, then you are back to square one. Mindfulness allows you to take what you learn outside and apply it inside, in the right situations.

As an experienced coach, I work with leaders at all levels to help them become better, by providing continued support to increase mindfulness. When you work with a coach, you have a completely judgment-free, confidential partner with whom you can analyze yourself and your relationships with others.

When I work with a client, I don’t have an agenda, or a desired outcome of my own. Instead, I am there to support the client in achieving their desired outcome. A coach can also help an organization whose members are not playing well together in the sandbox, by coaching the organization as a single entity in order to achieve the results everyone desires.

There are many coaches who specialize in aviation, and the International Coaching Federation (the NBAA of coaching) has a tool at coachingfederation.org to help you find a coach near you.

ScottScott Moore is a Professional Certified  Coach with over 2700 hours of experience coaching people at all levels of an organization.  A former aviation department manager, he is also a Certified Aviation Manager and holds an ATP. Moore presents highly interactive leadership workshops through his company, Moore Life Leadership.