I am currently taking lessons to become a private pilot.  Monday,  my instructor Charlie gave me an important piece of advice with regards to flying that holds true for  leadership as well.  He said a pilot must  always do things in this order:

  1. Aviate (Optimal altitude)
  2. Navigate (Set the course)
  3. Communicate (Inform others)

Before anything else, a leader must aviate.  When it comes to leadership, this means we make sure our attitude is as high as possible before we navigate or communicate.  If we’re feeling down, demoralized or stressed and we attempt to navigate we will probably not set the best course.  If we try to communicate when our attitude is not optimal, we may confuse or even upset others and make difficult situations  worse.

So, how do we  aviate?  How can leaders raise their altitude to the highest setting so that they

properly set their course and communicate it to others?

First, set an intention to have a better attitude. This seems self-evident but a pilot who plans to merely “go up” is neither as safe nor as likely to reach the proper cruising altitude as a pilot who decides upon the ideal altitude and checks the altimeter along the way.

So, if your attitude is a little low, set an intention to go higher.  Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how upbeat am I feeling right now?”  If you’re struggling (and everyone does from time to time) reframe from navigating or communicating as much as possible.

Second,  trust that whatever challenge you’re experiencing, like every challenge before it, will ultimately resolve in your favor.

Third, make a list of the resources available both within yourself and from others to move you through this situation.

Once a leader has raised his or her emotional state the highest level, it is then possible to optimally navigate and to effectively communicate to others so that they will follow.

Most leaders spend a great deal of time on navigation (strategy) and communication without first addressing the most important aspect of leadership: aviation.  Make a commitment to be as legitimately upbeat as you can and those in your charge will follow you willingly and enthusiastically.