I don’t normally fly first class and even when I do I never charge my customers for a first class airline ticket. I charge them enough as it is so it would be insulting to tack even more on. But, every now and then I treat myself to a first class ticket, especially when it’s a three-hour or so flight.
Recently on a flight from Dallas to Philadelphia I splurged and bought myself a first class seat. After getting seated in my special aisle seat I had to get up and let my seatmate in. He was kind of a big guy, chatting on his cell phone and at the same time making comments to a number of other people boarding in both first class and coach as they walked by.
The people he was speaking to were co-workers returning from a company meeting/convention at the Gaylord Resort in Dallas, TX.
All of a sudden he gets up, walks back to the second row in coach and switches seats with a lady who apparently was the number one sales person for his region. He ends up sitting in a middle seat in the coach section for a three-hour flight to Philadelphia.
One of the things I learned from my days in the Marine Corps is that leaders lead from the front and push from the rear. Higher-ranking Marines will always make sure the troops eat first and they eat last. They know if they take care of the troops, the troops will take care of them.
I don’t know if this guy was a former Marine or not, but I do know that he certainly exhibited great leadership skills. The lady who was now sitting beside me had never sat in first class before. Do you think the next time he needs her to go the extra mile to make a sale that she will for one second hesitate? I kinda doubt it.
This very subject is the reason some leaders are able to achieve amazing results with average people. They know when to lead from the front and when to push from the rear. They understand what’s important to people and they understand what it takes to have a winning team.
Sometimes it’s the little things a leader does that you might not think of as being so important at the time. When I was a dealer, whenever we had a luncheon or function I never sat with the members of our management team. I always, always made sure I sat with the "rank and file." To take it a step further I always made it a point to sit with those who I knew felt disconnected from the hot shots in the dealership. I wanted to sit with the ones that you might consider introverts.
I know, and you should know, others are always watching you and your leadership skills. That guy on the plane didn’t just make a statement to the woman he gave his seat up to. He made a statement to all the other staff people on the plane that day.
So I have a short one question quiz for you. If you’d had a first class seat, would you have given it up to one of your subordinates to sit three hours in a middle seat from Dallas to Philadelphia?
It’s probably an unfair question since you just read this article, but give it a try.
Semper Fi. For you non-Marines that means "always faithful." That’s all I’m going to say.