Are you managing your business as a captain or as a pilot?

Are you a captain or a pilot

Dilemma: How to manage better?

The constantly increasing pace of the technological progress requires new business models, efficient and robust ways of managing businesses as well as communicating about them.

How often have we heard about the concept of the “ship of state”, with its analogy of of those who are in power as captains of seafaring vessel? This is historically understandable – for millennia naval power represented the pinnacle of national and imperial pride. For much of modern history, showing off one’s naval prowess was a classic projection of a nation’s interests – and, often, its ambitions.

But if we consider the nature of ships and their captains, we see that the metaphor has become dangerously inappropriate for our contemporary world. Ships take time – time to travel over distance, time to come up to speed, time to slow down, and above all, time to change course. For all of their charms and ongoing value to world commerce, ships are living reminders of old ways of doing things (business).

Onboard a ship, the captain is the complete master. Captains always have the final word, and their judgment is rarely if ever questioned; their command is absolute. This is hardly the sort of inflexibility we seek in our chiefs, supervisors and bosses on shore, however effective this approach may be at sea.

What, then, is better, more accurate and more appropriate model for entrepreneurs of modern age? Effective leaders for modern age will be best served by modeling themselves on aircraft pilots.

Consider the abilities and qualities that a pilot must master, put into practice, and display for his passengers.

Our pilots must be:

  • Professional
  • Skilled
  • Able to deal with changing circumstances and situations
  • Concerned above all with safety and security
  • Systematic
  • Committed to constant education and refinement of skills, and
  • Dedicated to service.

These abilities, in turn, are applied to one terrifically complex but also very simple and straightforward task: getting the aircraft from its point of origin to its destination, and doing so safely. The pilot’s focus on the task at hand must be total, even as he attends to and processes all kind of constantly changing information and input. But above all, the safety and flight-worthiness of his craft is foremost in the pilot’s mind from the first moments of preflight inspection to the cheerful farewells to passengers safely delivered to their destination (and happy to continue their journey!).

In between those two moments – checklist before takeoff, and debarkation of passengers and cargo – the pilot’s attention is both focused and on the move. Flight speed, changing weather and traffic conditions, fuel, ground communications, occasional crew and passenger concerns, must be attended to and factored into the overall task of safety piloting the aircraft.

It is important to bear in mind that while aircraft are models of ultramodern technology and computerization, the pilot’s chief responsibility is on the fundamentals: survival.

— Marina Belskikh, founder of International Business Development Alliance

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