January 30, 2012

Teaching from the Tube: Lead like the Great Conductors

Teaching from the Tube was one of my favorite features on the old What's a Flight Officer, so I've decided to continue it into the new WAFO?

I came across this video a few weeks back and thought it had some good lessons for what pilots can do as leaders. Please take the 1/2 hour to watch it:

So here's the lesson I believe: Don't be overpowering as a leader, let your team do their jobs. As pilots, or flightcrew, we are taught the importance of Crew Resource Management. We've spoken about this previously in other posts. Sully Sullenberger used CRM to successfully land in the Hudson. Other pilots have used it successfully in situations that are beyond their training and averted total disaster. This is a documented fact time and time again.

Now, I am not suggesting that an orchestra is in a life-and-death situation like the above situations. However, the same approach that Leonard Berstein took in the last clip is similar to what Sullenberger used to secure his airplane: he trusted his team do their jobs. He gave the emergency procedures to his FO because the FO was more familiar with them. He trusted his flight attendants to prepare the cabin for a water landing. He only communicated with the cabin once, but made sure that he was working in-concert with his FO on the flight deck.

We also see in this talk that while Conductors may open up the music to their orchestra, they will also exercise the authority over their players as needed. This is also important for flight teams to understand: "As the Captain I know you're professionals and so trust you to do your jobs, but if I see something I don't like I will step in and correct it". The authority is there, and can be exercised.

I do think the best example of this type of leadership is in the last clip. In case you didn't follow my directions, Here it is again:

Do you see what Leonard Bernstein is doing? He's stepping in only occasionally to inform his orchestra, but otherwise he is letting them do their jobs.


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