The Role of Leadership during Times of Crisis: Aviation

Some of the strategies used by leaders in the Brazilian aviation industry while facing the impacts associated with Covid-19 and the importance of having an active leadership

When I received the invitation to become a columnist for the Airconnected web portal, my first reaction was to start thinking about a topic that was important and relevant to readers, especially due to the current socioeconomic conditions in Brazil. Much has been said about the social impacts of Covid-19, a theme that is of paramount importance as Brazil alone has lost almost 500,000 lives so far. The economic perspective related to the pandemic has also been widely discussed: What are the impacts on industry? Slashed demand, cancellation/deferral of aircraft deliveries, thousands of jobs lost, companies adopting significant restructuring strategies and some even going under; in short, significant negative impacts. So, I thought I would slightly shift the perspective and talk about those responsible for leading aviation industry organizations during the crisis, as well as the decisions that have been made to ensure business continuity and to be prepared for when it bounces back. It is important to remember that organizations are nothing more than their people. 

“Lead by example” is a sentence I have carried with me since the first time I heard it and, in my opinion, clearly summarizes how a leader should behave. Leaders should maintain high moral and ethical standards while conducting business, keeping the “triple bottom line” – finances, people and the environment – as a guideline for their actions. A leader must serve as an exemplar of her own expectations about her team. “More important than being recognized by the results obtained, is to be recognized by the path to get there.” This second sentence has already been used and adapted by several leaders from the industry (aviation and otherwise) and complements “leadership by example.” Results are obviously fundamental, but the path taken is just as important, and leaders who follow the genuine definition of the word leadership should always consider the various existing variables in their decisions. 

The main organizations of the aviation industry in Brazil have faced the challenges of 2020 and 2021 by the commitment and dedication of their leaders in an exemplary way. Resilience, innovation and business continuity are core characteristics which are often “forged in fire” in Brazilian leaders due to the constant challenges of doing business in the country. Because of such qualities, these leaders and the organizations they represent have recovered the trust of investors, customers, and passengers, and thus are ready for the complete recovery of their activities once it is safe to do so. Both major air transport companies and other major players of the industry have “done” their homework and are now able to stay competitive. 

Leadership

However, one might ask who are the leaders within an organization? Is it just the C-suite? Should we consider some of the directors too? I particularly believe that everyone who is responsible for managing people should always be considered as leaders. People tend to believe junior level managers are in charge only of the day-to-day operations and that they only perform managerial functions, but no leadership. This misconception is not entirely wrong. However, these managers also act as leaders and are responsible for “translating” the mission, vision and strategies of the company into tangible actions for their teams. They must ensure that everyone understands her/his importance to the activities of the organization, that each individual is part of something bigger and thus essential for the success of the company.

I wanted to present with this article some of the characteristics related to leadership which from my point of view enabled the aviation industry in Brazil to effectively navigate the pandemic crisis. I would also like to encourage you to reflect about your role in the industry, whether or not you are a leader. I believe that Brazil is prepared for the recovery trend that is about to come and I completely trust the leaders of our aviation organizations!

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