One of the hallmarks of leadership is to have immersive experiences that you can relate to personally, and then nuancing them to help develop your own people working with you. However, short of being hands-on on every single task, what are some of the options for gaining such experiences, especially for an emerging leader, a leader in training, or even a leader already entrenched in the field but placed in even more challenging environments?

The funny adage to “fake it till you make it” is true, but not the way you think.

Before pilots fly a commercial jet, they go through a type rating program to get acquainted with the jet. The program would normally entail extensive classroom training before immersing in even more grilling training in the flight simulator, and then culminating in flights in the actual jet.

The program has to be seriously challenging for good reason – you are handling an expensive machine carrying people and/or cargo, and lives are at stake (including yours). This is why pilots are leaders in every way, having gone through the rigors of immersive experiences first hand, and are able to relate to every possible documented scenario and handle them with exemplary care and poise.

We should demand the same of corporate leaders. After all, lives too are at stake – livelihood of lives and families. When a business fails, many families would lose their means of making honest wages, and their abilities to support their families. The economic downturn of the 1980s and later decades bore testimony to this harsh reality. Therefore, leaders have to make good decisions, or risk running not just businesses to the ground, but ruining many lives along with them.

Simulations as the litmus test

What we do at FlightLeaders.com is simple – we put corporate leaders through flight emergencies such as engine failures and fires in a flight simulator, and then run them through with trained pilots to show them how best to recover from incidents such as these and more.

At the same time, HOW these corporate executives manage themselves, and their innate personalities, will be put to the litmus test. These training programs are all conducted in an engaging, exciting, and even entertaining manner so that adrenalin-charged corporate executives can enjoy and learn from these programs.

After the simulation role-plays, we facilitate the program with these corporate executives to equate learning points from aviation and its best practices for incident and disaster recovery, and aviation communication in its sheer elegance and simplicity. Corporate executives will walk away understanding these key learning points:

  • Some will be leaders, some will be followers
  • Leaders have to be in front
  • Disasters and incidents happen (chaos and uncertainty are the only certainties)
  • We must be prepared for disasters and incidents (crisis preparedness)
  • Communication must be simple and precise
  • Teamwork keeps people alive and together
  • Success is a matter of experience – you cannot “wing it”

Leaders have to be in front

Leaders, by the nature of the name, have to be in front. Being prepared, and showing you know what you are doing because you REALLY know what you are doing, will always be the greatest motivator to your people. Faking it, talking down, hiding behind people, are all signs of weakness and lack of real experience.

Be in front boldly, and show your people, your competition, and the world, that you are the leader you say you are, because you have walked the millions of miles, braved through the dangers, traversed challenges and conquered every one of them, and then climbed to the summit to plant the flag.

PS – First written by Dr Seamus Phan, co-pilot of FlightLeaders, on his blog.

Dr Seamus Phan is the Head of Content and CTO at McGallen & Bolden, parent of FlightLeaders.com. He is an expert in branding, marketing, communication, leadership training, crisis management, and entrepreneurship. This article may appear concurrently on his blog. Connect on LinkedIn. ©1984-2018 Seamus Phan et al. All rights reserved.