Leaders can be found nearly anywhere. They’re present at all levels in an organization and in all walks of life. And, in many instances, they don’t possess a bit of formal leadership authority.
Being a leader doesn’t simply mean having a title or occupying a position. To be a leader, you don’t have to be the aviation director, chief pilot or director of maintenance.
It’s a lot more than that.
Have you ever noticed that some people in your flight department gain more respect than others?
They almost seem to have an “aura” about them. And they’re not always in formal leadership positions.
What’s this “aura” all about? And how do you get it?
The answer may come in a surprising way.
The well-known nun and missionary, Mother Teresa, once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
Leadership is exactly that. It can be demonstrated by casting many “stones” across the organizational water, regardless of your level. Rather than being about your position, it’s about being a positive role model, or a “credible influencer.”
A credible influencer makes positive choices in all their interactions. They take the high road and they do not to undermine. They reflect the organization’s agenda (not their own) and by their actions encourage their peers to follow their example.
In doing so, they’re usually the ones who are identified and developed for more formal leadership positions in the future.
How do you become a credible influencer?
Here are seven proven ways to “cast a stone across the water” and become a credible influencer in your aviation organization.
Seven Ways to Become a Credible Influencer
1. Be Credible
The first step in becoming a credible influencer is, well, to be credible!
Don Miguel Ruiz states in his book, The Four Agreements, that the most important agreement to make with those around you is to “be impeccable with your word.”
Credible influencers are honest and straightforward. They cast not even the faintest shadow of suspicion. Nobody in the organization doubts their intentions. They are of the highest integrity.
They place trust at the top of their priority list. Trust is of utmost importance to credible influencers. They know that once you breach someone’s trust, it’s difficult to get it back.
Credible influencers are positive, enthusiastic (but genuine) and always speak well of their colleagues, especially those in different parts of the flight department organization.
Tip – People are drawn to those they trust.
2. Subordinate Individual Interests
Credible influencers always embrace the larger agenda, never their own.
Being a credible influencer means supporting decisions that are in the best interest of the whole department. Credible influencers sometimes may not completely like the outcome of a decision, but once made they support it openly and earnestly.
For instance, a maintenance technician may want to simply clean up a spill on the hangar floor and move on to the next task of the day. Instead, they clean the spill and take the extra step of documenting it as a safety Event Report. It would have been easier to clean it up and move on, but they “go the extra mile” willingly, knowing that it’s a Safety Management System (SMS) policy. Plus, it helps advance the safety culture of the flight department.
Being a credible influencer means going beyond individual agendas.
Tip – Think and act in terms of the organization, not yourself.
3. Acknowledge the Success of Others
Credible influencers support their fellow team members. They look for ways to “give credit where credit is due” and celebrate the success of others.
For example, a pilot might know that a maintenance technician flexed his or her work schedule the night before to fix a squawk on an aircraft, enabling a high-level executive an on-time departure early the next morning.
Being a credible influencer, the pilot takes the time to send an email throughout the department, acknowledging the technician’s efforts and thanking him or her for “going above and beyond” and saving the trip.
Credible influencers establish a genuine interest around the well-being and success of each and every person in the organization. They always give more than they expect to receive back.
Tip – Gain some personal satisfaction by acknowledging the success of others.
4. Respect all Viewpoints
Credible influencers show respect and appreciation for all points of view.
They foster positive and productive relationships. They demonstrate a style that builds alliances within the organization, not divisions.
For example, take the case of an aircraft dispatcher who is concerned about the route that has been selected on an international trip. As it is currently planned, the route passes over conflict zones and high-risk territories.
There are large stretches along the way for which there are no acceptable alternate airports in the event of an in-flight emergency, and there are no acceptable medical facilities.
As a credible influencer, the dispatcher arranges a conference call or meeting with the trip captain and a corporate security representative. They all have different points of view, but they all respect each other’s position, and collaborate on a routing that addresses all concerns.
Everybody wins, and the most appropriate and safest outcome for the trip is achieved.
Tip – Handle differences of opinion carefully by surfacing issues in a collaborative and productive way, not by driving them underground.
5. Focus on “Now”
Credible influencers invest their energy in the present.
They don’t complain about the injustices of the past (it’s over), nor do they worry about the future (it’s not here yet). Instead, they invest their energy on the things they can influence (whats happening now).
For example, when a top-level leadership change is about to occur in the flight department, a credible influencer—whether he or she is from Dispatch, Flight Operations, Business Administration or Maintenance—will look for ways to create an opportunity from this change in leadership.
Instead of worrying about who is coming in and what’s going to happen, they will be busy preparing themselves for the leadership change, perhaps by “polishing up” their process documents and getting ready to review them with the new leader.
And they’ll encourage their peers to do the same.
Credible influencers look positively at change and take full advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.
Tip – Always look at change as an opportunity and seek positive outcomes.
6. Be a Collaborator
Credible influencers keep on an even keel in the midst of all organizational storms.
They are supportive of top-level department decisions, even if they do not like them. They don’t spread rumors or express their opinions in a way that generates anxiety, negativity or divisiveness.
For instance, consider the situation in which a major policy decision has been made in the flight department—that doesn’t have widespread support.
A credible influencer will work collaboratively to build cross-functional support for the decision and rally his or her peers behind it. They do not “campaign” for another outcome or try to undermine the decision.
Tip – Always be seen as someone who seeks to unify and support the organization.
7. Have Staying Power
Credible influencers have staying power. They are resolute and have the fortitude to see it through.
Even in the face of obstacles, they never seem to give up. Once they get their sights set on an objective, they stick with it to the end.
For example, assume that a member of the Business Administration team in the flight department wants to begin the reporting of monthly budget status. The report that he or she wants to distribute clearly states the actual budget status vs. the plan by functional group, and clearly highlights the budget variance.
There are many in the department who do not want that visibility, nor the resulting “accountability” that would result.
The credible influencer looks for ways to convince his or her fellow team members that the new reporting is good for the department. In spite of the pushback they might get, he or she keeps working at convincing fellow team members that this is the right thing to do.
And they do so in a supportive and reassuring way.
Tip – Work tirelessly to bring others to the best course of action and never give up.
How have you become a credible influencer in your flight department? What techniques have you used? Share your ideas with us in the comments below and we’ll share them in a future blog.