Building a Powerhouse Business Aviation Leadership Team

Author By Steve Brechter

Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking with some of our industry’s top leaders on the subject of “Value Creation.”

And within that topic, I shared the idea of expanding the typical corporate flight department leadership team to include key “plug-in” points at Corporate.

Expanding the Aviation leadership team is something we’ve implemented with our client base over the past decade. And, it’s truly essential if you’re really focused on functioning at the highest levels.

Please read on and we’ll explain why expanding your leadership team is so critical to the stellar operation of your flight department.

Expanding the Aviation Leadership Team

To begin, let’s look at what constitutes a corporate flight department’s Aviation Leadership Team.

Typically, it’s composed of the leaders of each aviation functional area, including: Maintenance, Flight Operations (including Flight Deck & Cabin), Scheduling & Dispatch, Business Management and Executive Office Interface.

Additionally, we recommend adding permanent leadership team members from no more than four key departments at Corporate. These are key competencies that are underrepresented within the Aviation Department, namely:

  • Human Resources – a MUST
  • Finance/Accounting – “If you can’t keep score, you can’t play”
  • IT – Essential both for in-flight connectivity and all of the technology needed in the Aviation office & hangar environments

You may also wish to include one of the following: Security (Executive Protection); Legal (contractual areas, corporate governance items); or Risk Management (Insurance & Regulatory Safety – OSHA, etc.).

The Right Players on the Team

Your corporate-level leadership team members must be some of “the best and brightest” in their respective fields.

Inviting them to join your Aviation Team generally requires that you and your Aviation Reporting Executive explain this new concept to the senior executive leaders responsible for the areas that you want to be represented within Aviation.

These corporate-level representatives must have the authority to make decisions and commit resources. They should also be tapped to build support for aviation with the incoming tier of leadership at the corporate level.

A Consistent Cadence

Meetings, on the same day and time each week, should be one hour in length—no more or less.  Each of the Aviation Leadership Team should commit to attending in person, every week.

Very importantly, if someone is on the road, they should call in. If a department has multiple bases, every location should be included. Use or Zoom for video calls, if available, and share your screen.

If they’re absolutely necessary, call-ins from Corporate are allowed, but they shouldn’t become the norm because of the value to be gained by meeting in person.

The meeting should be “time and agenda driven” with a timekeeper. Also, minutes of each meeting should be published and distributed to the entire department. This helps to address the need for more in-depth communication, which is a complaint that we hear all too frequently.

Honest Communication

It’s important to remember that in these expanded Aviation Leadership Team meetings, everyone is on equal footing. Not only will this mindset help to bond the leadership team, it will aid you in working together toward alignment.

Then, once you’re aligned, you can have open and honest communication. Any thorny problems or challenges are worked on in a very collaborative way, and petty politics don’t enter into the picture.

To learn more about honest, trustworthy communication, I highly recommend one of Ray Dalio’s books, “Principles: Life and Work.” In it, Mr. Dalio encourages his readers to have a sense of humility and to open themselves up to criticism, which will help them improve.

Meeting Agenda

Although it can certainly vary due to the particular issues your team might be dealing with, a typical meeting agenda for your weekly meetings might look something like this:

  • Review meeting agenda – Any last-minute additions or deletions?
  • Review prior minutes – Discuss the status on follow-up items/accountabilities
  • Issues and initiatives – To be identified ahead of time with presentations well prepared
  • Information sharing – Everyone shares for 1 to 2minutes each
  • Process check – How did this meeting work? Good, bad and ugly
  • Set next agenda – identify what the major 1 or 2 presentations will be and who is accountable

Weekly Topics –Issues & Initiatives

Your list of weekly meeting topics should be dictated by the issues at hand, but here are some ideas as to what a typical topic list might include. As you can see, it’s fairly comprehensive and wide-ranging in its scope. Note: Only one of the following topics would be presented per meeting:

  • Aviation facility improvements
  • Process improvements
  • Regulatory compliance needs
  • Audit needs
  • Training
  • Technology needs (e.g., iPads, laptops, email, Wi-Fi at the hangar, etc.)
  • Aircraft sales or purchases
  • HR updates (e.g., compensation or hiring update)
  • Trip planning
  • Security issues/concerns
  • Catering

Focus on Building Team Support

It’s a given that every organization and flight department in the business and private aviation industry is unique, with its own “modus operandi” and guiding principles based on your corporation’s strategy.

Given the bespoke nature of our organizations and missions, we strongly believe the foregoing establishes a very workable template for building a powerhouse business aviation leadership team. One that will create even greater value within your organization—and serve to advance your particular service model in all the most important facets of your company’s leadership.

One last bit of advice: Don’t forget that in order to build support for anything you hope to achieve in this regard, you must do it in parallel. You’ll be doing it simultaneously—within the Aviation organization and at Corporate. The more collaborative your building process, the more natural, organic (and successful) it will become for all involved.


Next Step:

If you’d like assistance with communicating with corporate and expanding your team, we’re here to help. As Interim Leaders, we’ve done this for many clients and we can work side-by-side your aviation leadership to offer guidance. We also offer custom leadership development and mentoring opportunities for individuals and teams. Contact us to review your needs today.