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Remove Before Flight - An Aviation Concept That May Help Us to Become Better Leaders

As student pilots, I recall our flight instructors emphasizing (okay, more like demanding) the use of checklists. The preflight checklist was one of the most important and comprehensive ones available and paradoxically, the one that we student pilots, in our impatience to get airborne, typically rushed through. The preflight checklist contained a section that reminded us to remove the items from the aircraft that were used to protect it while it was on the ground, but if not removed, would cause huge problems in flight.

Each of those items had a highly conspicuous red tag with white lettering labeled Remove Before Flight. One item that needed to be removed before each flight was the protective cover over the pitot tube. At the risk of boring you with aeronautical principles, the pitot tube is a critical part of the system used to indicate the speed of the aircraft through the air while in flight. If that protective cover was not removed prior to flight, the aircraft’s airspeed indicator, would not be operative. Without a functioning airspeed indicator, the pilot might unknowingly slip into flying too slow, resulting in insufficient air moving over the wings that is needed to produce the lift required to stay airborne. This in turn could cause an aerodynamic stall (read falling out of the sky like a brick) and premature contact with the ground. On the other extreme, again without being able to accurately gauge airspeed, the pilot could inadvertently fly too fast, exceeding the speed where structural damage to the aircraft results. In extreme cases, a wing or other critical part of the aircraft could be ripped off, again making for an untimely end to the flight and a very bad day! 

Perhaps as leaders, we could adopt the “Remove Before Flight” concept as a metaphor for the things that we may need to remove before coming to work each day. Because I have a very visual orientation, I have literally attached a Remove Before Flight tag to my notebook PC case. For me, that tag is an effective and necessary daily reminder of the attitudes and thoughts that I generally should refrain from bringing to work with me. My personal checklist of items that I try to remove at the start of each day often includes:  

  • The drive and need to be right  

  • The drive and need to be in control

  • The drive and need to be all things to all people     

  • And a few others that I don’t care to mention

Situational leadership of course recommends that we adjust our leadership approach to the needs and circumstance of those who we lead. Arguably, in leadership circumstances like opening a new fast food restaurant with an inexperienced team of young workers, some of the above items could still be justifiably employed. As leaders in our professional healthcare environment, our use cases of those items would seem to be very limited. For the betterment of our team members, colleagues, and clients that we serve, let’s periodically consider taking an honest inventory of the attitudes and thinking that we are showing up with. Let’s strive to remove attitudes and thinking that fall short of promoting a culture of Serving Leadership or of advancing our four primary Leader Behaviors.

I am still working on this so if you see me spiraling out of control, please remind me to refer to the checklist in removing those items that are impeding my daily leadership flight!  

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