You can learn a lot about leadership while sitting on an airplane. Last week, I visited the classroom 6 times … Let me off this plane!

The first lesson came Tuesday on a flight from Dallas to Atlanta. We arrived on time and taxied to the gate. So far, so good.

What happened next blew my mind.

We pulled up to the gate and stopped, while simultaneously over the loudspeaker, the flight attendant announced, “Please keep your seats, it is going to be a moment before we can de-board the plane.”

Let Me Off This PlaneWe sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. And sat. That’s eleven SAT’s, representing one minute each.

About SAT number four, the hundred or so passengers were getting antsy. The flight attendant sensing the tension, made a second announcement. “Folks, please be patient, it will be just another moment.”

Four SATs later and you could smell the impatience. The flight attendant must have smelled it too. Her next announcement capped the capper. “Ladies and gentlemen, it seems they (notice she didn’t say WE – passing the buck is popular for mediocre teams) are having a hard time locating the gate agent to meet us, and by regulation we cannot open the door until the gate agent shows up.” 

Ouch! I’m thinking, You can’t be serious.

Let’s just say the next three minutes felt like three hours … AWKward!

I sat there grateful for a couple of things. First, I reminded myself the airline got the most important part right and we landed safely. Secondly, I was grateful I was not the tardy gate agent … the one responsible for robbing 100+ people of eleven minutes. That’s over 18 hours of lost time.

When I finally reached the terminal, my mind went back to the old adage, “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.”  Picture a quarterback being sacked because a single lineman misses a block.

As you think about your business, are there places where you have weak spots? Like the airline, you can get the most important thing right and still leave your customers frustrated.

Great teams have systems, not intentions, in place to take care of their clients. They understand that one person can ruin the results for the entire team. Everyone does their job, recognizing the power of WE.

I encourage you to resist the temptation to look only at what your team does well. Also, spend time evaluating those places where you might be robbing your customers of an exceptional experience.

If you can remove the SAT’s for your customers, your team (and business) will be stronger.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Which is easier for a you as a leader, to focus on the big picture or the details?

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