Leadership When the Heat's On
Only a few feet separate the lead pilot's tailpipe from the nose of my supersonic fighter as we rip through the sky at speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour. I feel the blast from his engine vibrating through my feet on the rudder pedals and through my right hand on the control stick. There are seven more jets behind me packed just as tight in our nine-ship formation.
Almost with one motion, the nose of each fighter gently drops below the horizon. The airspeed builds until the lead pilot pulls back on the stick. The nose of every fighter rises in perfect symmetry as the G forces build. I feel the blood being forced into my legs and feet. All nine of us are now experiencing the same 5 G force ––5 times our body weight. We tighten our leg and abdominal muscles to keep blood in our upper extremities to avoid blacking out.
I concentrate on keeping my hand on the throttle. If it slips off, the G force will push it down between the side panel and my ejection seat. I will lose my ability to make minor throttle adjustments and hold precise position. As we curve over the top of our perfect loop, the world switches places with the sky. The G forces diminish down the backside. I steal a millisecond glance at the two rear view mirrors. Everyone is still tucked in tight. The G pressure builds again as our lead pilot pulls the nose back up to level flight and eight pilots follow in perfect unison.
The lead pilot takes us through a series of horizon tumbling rolls followed by a formation shift to a nine-ship diamond. It's my turn to fly center position as we make a high-speed, low-level pass over the airfield. The noise of eight other jets in front and back, and on both sides, flying two to three yards from wingtip to wingtip is deafening. It's high performance flying right to the edge. There is only one word to describe it: exhilarating. WOW! How I love it!
It's the ultimate team experience. The difference between life and death can be how well we learn from our successes and failures. Our synergy comes from courage, creativity, and being there for each other, no matter what. After leaving the Air Force and entering the corporate world, I had to transfer the principles of individual and team high performance to new challenges.
I had to make some tremendous adjustments, but my drive to again be a part of a high performance team was strong. I sought out advice and counsel from the most successful people I could find in various industries. What they taught me, along with some innovations of my own, put my new team into a supersonic climb. In five years, we increased production 800 percent, morale soared and turnover dropped to nearly zero.
Consider this your supersonic flight plan as you discover how my team broke the old records and continued to break the new ones. You're going to find out how to become the lead pilot for your team and a barrier-breaking leader.