Whether it’s a paper airplane or a massive 747, taking flight depends on the right construction, conditions, and piloting. The analogy contains countless insights for leaders: Getting an organization off the ground is much like getting a plane into the air. That’s the concept behind the book, On Course: Become a Great Leader and Soar (2017), by leadership authority and former U.S. Air Force pilot Ken Pasch.
Pasch is a successful business advisor today. But as he admits, he didn’t start his career as a great leader. In fact, he was once a pretty bad boss. When he left the Air Force for a new vocation — leading medical centers — it didn’t take long to realize he needed to radically improve his leadership style. After many sleepless nights he had an epiphany: leading is like flying. Decades later, his approach has proved highly effective for leaders in organizations of every stripe, and size, from self-owned, small businesses to global corporations.
On Course was written for aspiring and established leaders alike. Much like flight training, Parsch starts his readers in a “leadership ground school” to set them on the right path. He begins with some tough questions, such as:
“Are we making decisions that keep us on a bright path to greater prosperity?”
“Are we willing to testify to the value of everything we produce and the services we provide?”
“Are we on a cusp of a breakthrough to heal those factors that divide us?”
Asking these kinds of questions feels both necessary and inspiring, a set of assessments that will resonate far beyond the pages of the book and beyond the bounds of business. They’re an apt reminder that leadership isn’t just contained within the business world, but extends to all walks of life. It’s a theme that Pasch revisits frequently throughout the book.
As Pasch explains, history has seen three prevalent leader types over and over again: false leaders; wannabes; and those who are, indeed, true leaders. The examples range from the bad to the good, often rich with military heritage: Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and many more. (In the back of the book, readers can check their own leadership style via a series of questions and answers — and don’t be surprised if the results are unexpected.)
With this foundation laid, Pasch launches into the essence of his approach: getting the plane into the air and keeping it there. Since the success of any organization depends on its people, it’s up to the leader to unlock and optimize their potential. That means getting your “plane” pointed in the right direction, and properly outfitted to accomplish the mission. Leaders can create lift through inspiration and motivation, maintaining speed and power forward with coordinated team efforts. All the while, watch out for the dead weight and drag that can bring a flight down — and monitor external conditions, such as a “storm” of fierce competition, declining consumer demand, or lost market share.
A number of several scenarios underscore the point. In one, Pasch asks readers to imagine they have just hired a new employee, and toss the new hire a large binder as a way of bringing them on board. It’s a typical a situation in many an organization, from a startup to a legacy corporation. But as Pasch shows, handing someone a manual and then just telling them to “ask about what you don’t understand” creates drag right from the start. Far better to actually walk them through how things are done — which automatically creates lift.
The book addresses a number of sticking points, including what happens when employees don’t feel their skills and talents are being utilized or valued. Here, the dead weight quickly turns into turbulence — and may even result in a crashed flight. On the other hand, employees who feel empowered to contribute, even in small ways, create “lift” and will “thrust” an organization forward.
With study after study revealing that today’s employees are largely unmotivated, discouraged, and not managed well, leaders at every level will benefit from Pasch’s model. The book’s quick 222 pages are filled with practical tips and suggestions: from how to give staff roles that can help make an organization, to how to build workplace systems that support success, to how to create a we-win mindset. Written in a positive and encouraging style, this is a book that stands well above the standard fare of leadership books. For one thing, Pasch is no theorist: he’s been there, and he knows firsthand what leaders face. For another, he offers a comprehensive flight plan that’s designed for one purpose and one alone: to enable readers to take hold of the controls and soar.
To learn more about Ken Pasch and his new book, visit his website.