Leading by Example

by Clint White

the high and the mighty captainThere are few moments more memorable for pilots than the day they are upgrading to captain. It’s a big step in their lives and it comes with the additional responsibility that comes with becoming pilot-in-command especially in a crew environment. Along with that responsibility the captain has to also be aware that he or she is leading by example and has the opportunity to show their crew-mates what being a PIC really entails:

  • The captain can and should be a teacher- You need to remember that your “junior” crew mates are watching what you do. Basically, your F/O is a Captain-In-Training. You cant be a “flaps-up, gear-up, shut-up” kind of Captain. People want to learn from your experience and for less experienced crew your insight can be more valuable than any flight school. I specially remember more than one pilot that taught me more in a few years than I ever learned in flight school. There are just some things that NEVER can be taught from a book. Its each captains responsibility to pass on your knowledge and experience to your crew.
  • A good captain is always learning- Conversely, in the modern aviation environment, the person sitting next to you in the right seat might have some experience and exposure that you do not have. Part of crew resource management is not only respecting the insights of your crew-mates, but also acknowledging that you may not know everything. It is not uncommon for a junior Captain to be sitting next to a very experienced F/O. Each person has something to contribute.
  • A captain takes care of their crew- Crews notice the big and LITTLE things that their Captains do or don’t do for them. DON’T be a “slam-clicker”! Be a sociable person as much as you can. Remember, you have to spend considerable time with your crew.. The Captain has the power to make the trip enjoyable or to make the trip hell. So when you are at the hotel, don’t be the guy who dosent try to get his crew upgraded rooms or free breakfasts or meals.. Buy a dinner for them once in a while. Be willing to listen to their issues. Not all of us are extroverts but the Captains that are most respected are the ones that stand up and take care of their crew.
  • Finally, LEAD BY EXAMPLE: How you fly is very bit as important as what you fly. Your F/O and crew are taking mental notes why your fly.. Are you taking chances in the cockpit? Are you trying to “duck under” on an approach? Or are you flying safely within your personal and aircraft limits. How you fly and use your procedures, SOPs, etc. WILL be copied by your crew. After all, if its OK with you (as Captain) to do certain things,why cant they? You have the power to create a culture of safely or a culture that is leading quickly to an accident or incident.

We would love to hear how you lead by example as a Captain or even as crew and any other ideas that you would like to add. Please comment below.