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Leading from the Core

Visionary or Integrator in the Cockpit? Think “Sully!”

Posted on March 2nd, 2017 by Randall Taussig

Lesson #18: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit

There are two primary roles in the cockpit: Captain and First Officer. The Captain is accountable for the overall safety and success of the flight. The First Officer shares the workload, serves as a trusted advisor and is back up for the Captain. All great flights begin and end with these two important functions.

All great businesses evolve with these two key functions as well but they’re called: Visionary and Integrator. One owns the future of the organization, while the other owns the present. Success is dependent upon both working side by side in harmony.

Miracle on the Hudson

In the movie Sully, Tom Hanks portrays Captain Chesley Sullenberger (“Sully”) and Aaron Eckhart, First Officer Jeff Skiles. The men work closely during the crisis of an unprecedented double bird strike shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia airport.

Sully is clearly in command during the crisis, yet Skiles remains calm while systematically reviewing checklists and assessing options. When Sully decides to forego an attempt to make it back to the airport, Skiles becomes fully committed to helping orchestrate a safe landing on the Hudson River.

Visionary or Integrator in the Cockpit?

The answer is “both.” Sully may not have pulled off the “miracle” without the focus and execution of his First Officer, and the crew and passengers may not have survived the fiery crash that was almost certain if they had attempted to make it back to the airport. Instead, Sully’s vision led them to the right place with the right outcome.

In the book Rocket Fuel, Gino Wickman and Mark Winters highlight the reality that without an Integrator, the Visionary is far less likely to see through the company’s long-term goals. And without the Visionary, the Integrator can’t rise to his or her full potential.

I fly a single engine plane by myself and I love it. But if I wanted to upgrade to a fast jet with more capabilities, I would most certainly need a trusted First Officer by my side.

If you’re committed to growing a strong/sustainable company, you can’t do it alone. A strong Visionary/Integrator combo will help you climb to new heights and could get you out of trouble when both engines quit!