I was on a flight from San Antonio to Dallas recently that was delayed for a long period of time. This normally leads to unease amongst the passengers as the prospect of missing a connecting flight or not getting home on time to see loved ones becomes a real possibility. In the larger scheme of life, it doesn’t matter but I don’t judge in this situation as I know what it feels like. A large part of the frustration stems from a combination of no control and poor communication.
This flight was different.
Normally information is communicated by the Captain from the confines of the cockpit. A faceless voice from the wilderness. Captain Bob was different. He spoke to the passengers on the steward’s intercom while standing in the middle of the aisle of the small plane in full view of all passengers. He communicated the situation with clarity, unpacking air safety protocol and jargon into plain speak for all to understand. He spoke with empathy, apologising for the impact on us, our time and our family. The clarity and sincerity of the Captain’s communication demonstrated the utmost of respect for the passengers. Many passengers would possibly miss connecting flights but there was no grumbling and complaining from those onboard. We know airlines will never compromise on safety. As much as we may complain about them, we totally support that dedication to our safety. The display from Captain Bob was a great example of a leader communicating the challenges being faced and the possible paths forward. The constant communication continued throughout the flight and his team echoed his clear and empathic sentiments. They constantly checked on connecting flights. They did not charge for food or drink. They came together to meet a common goal and totally supported the leadership of their Captain. The Captain even called on each of us to think of our fellow passengers who had connecting flights to catch and to allow them to leave the plane first. Many people did miss their connecting flights and you can normally cut the tension with a knife when this is the case. This flight was different. Passengers thought about each other. Passengers understood exactly what was happening and what was being done about it. Passengers were treated with respect and responded with the same in return.
True leadership in action.
A true leader leads with EMPATHY and communicates with CLARITY.
A true leader RESPECTS the people they lead.
A true leader works WITH people to serve a common goal.
A true leader is SEEN.