Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Training Future Aviation Leaders

One of the most significant challenges facing the aviation industry is the impending shortage of certain key aviation workforce positions. Industry-wide, the contemporary view is that we are on the cusp of a shortage in pilots and maintenance technicians. This factor is especially alarming considering the industry growth projected to take place in the coming decades.

Aviation is highly dynamic and many segments of the industry are a state of continual flux as they seek to generate the revenue necessary not only to survive, but to achieve/maintain profitability. The nature of the industry necessitates the development of present and future employees who understand not only how the business side of a company functions, but are flexible, decisive, skilled in change management, excel in team building and have the ability to inspire those around them. In short, future aviation industry team members must learn to be leaders.  

I have served in various operations and safety leadership positions in the airline industry for a number of years. I was also an Assistant Professor of Aviation for six years, teaching and mentoring future aviation industry members. In each of these positions, I interacted regularly with executives, directors, managers, supervisors and front-line personnel in a number of operating and administrative departments, as well as a large number of college students. In doing so, I constantly observe behaviors, interactions, group dynamics, interpersonal skills, subject matter acumen, etc. Almost with exception, those who are the most successful and garner respect are those who consistently demonstrate strong, effective leadership characteristics, even if they do not serve in an official leadership capacity by job title.

Many collegiate aviation students and even many people that have been in the aviation industry for quite some time have never really been taught fundamental leadership skills. The point here is that ours is an ever-changing industry that demands adaptability and an increasing focus on team building. Thus, future aviation members should actively pursue effective leadership skill training and other opportunities to learn what it means to be a true leader.