Who is flying this plane?

3 Minute Read

As you’re boarding your flight, you look to your left and catch a glimpse of the Captain sitting in the cockpit. You wave and nod approvingly, and now you can rest assured that there is a Captain – and he looks competent to get you to your destination safely…phew! Your plane takes off, and now you’ve reached 30,000 feet. All of a sudden, someone comes over the intercom and says, “Do we have any doctors or nurses on board? We have a medical emergency.”

OH NO! The Captain has had a heart attack. Panic sets in. You start to fidget. Your forehead is glistening with sweat. It’s at that moment that it hits you…WHO IS FLYING THIS PLANE??? You’re waiting for the oxygen masks to drop, and you’re ready to tuck your head between your knees and brace for impact. You wish you would have paid attention to all those stupid instructions that the flight attendant went over…Where is the nearest emergency exit? Can I use my seat cushion as a flotation device? You think about every possible terrible scenario as the drama unfolds.

Lucky for you, the Captain has a Co-Pilot.

A back-up plan. And he, too, is competent to get you to your destination safely. Relax. You’re going to be just fine!

How often does this scenario (or something like it) happen at your company? Maybe it’s not a plane that is going to crash. Maybe it’s a plant that will shut down if the Plant Manager is gone. Or maybe it’s a frantic team of customer service people that can’t solve any of the customer’s problems without their supervisor present. What happens when your leadership team takes a vacation? Do they get phone calls from their staff every hour, presenting them with a new crisis to solve? Or do they get to enjoy their time off without any interruptions?

The job of a leader is not to direct – it’s to coach, empower, train, and develop.


Companies in every industry have employees that rely on their supervisors to solve problems for them. Every day, instead of empowering employees to make decisions, supervisors give the answer. As a leader in your company, you have to ask yourself: Are you okay with that?

The job of a leader is not to direct – it’s to coach, empower, train, and develop. Your job is to get work done through others, while helping them to develop their strengths in the process. It’s about building your bench strength. You may have some great employees, but they may not want to be in that same position forever.  What are their goals and aspirations? Do they desire to move up within your company? Do they desire to develop their skills and someday have a position like yours? And the most important question: Can they function without you?

If the airline you flew on that day didn’t have a back-up plan, what would have happened to all the innocent lives on that plane? If something happened to you today, what would happen to your team? Could they function without skipping a beat, and is there someone ready to step up and take your place? If not – maybe it’s time to ask yourself that question: Who is flying your plane?

Do you have a back-up plan? Let’s talk about succession planning.

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