The captain as a leader

All of us are leaders to some extend and in our own way. We could be a leader at our workplace, a leader at home, a leader in our own neighbourhood or our community. So what is a leader, what are the qualities of a leader, and what do leaders do? How do we see ourselves as a leader?

Perhaps we can learn something from the cockpit discipline at how the commander of the flight, who is the captain, conducts himself during flight, as the team leader in charge of a multi million dollar asset that includes the lives of a few hundred people. The following are some of his roles and responsibilities that I have learned during my years as a captain:

  • During flight, the captain is the designated leader. This role is bestowed upon him not only by the company, but also by the regulatory body. He therefore has wide ranging powers.
  • He sets the tone for the flight. His crew members will react to his moods and idiosyncrasies. It is therefore important for him to be in a state that fosters teamwork and encourages the crew to be motivated to perform at their best.
  • Workload management. Although all his team members have their own roles and responsibilities, the captain will distribute the workload accordingly especially during non-normal situations. He should be able to detect whenever any of his team members is overloaded with tasks.
  • Leadership style. A captain will be scheduled to fly with crew members of various experience levels, ranging from a few months experience to a few years. He should therefore be able to use the most suitable leadership style depending on the experience level of his team members. The worst case would be to delegate tasks to an inexperienced crew member or to direct a very experienced crew member.
  • Crew members briefing. If his mental state and behaviour sets the tone for the flight, briefing will ensure that all team members are “on the same page.” To work well as a team, it is important for the captain to conduct a briefing. This will address and resolve any differences in expectation amongst crew members. It will also allow crew members to clarify any issues or misunderstandings.
  • Debriefing. In the aviation industry, experience is an invaluable asset. It is the captain’s responsibility to ensure that the inexperienced crew members learn something from the flight. Being the most experienced, he could guide them to discover lessons learned from the flight.

Written by Azharuddin Osman

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