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The Corporate Cockpit

Inside the Corporate Cockpit

When US Air Ways flight number 1549 took off from New York’s LaGuardia airport on January 15, 2009 everything appeared to be business as usual.


Shortly after take off the plane’s leader, Captain Sully, recognized something was gravely wrong. Unfortunately, his jet had struck a flock of geese and the plane was going down. In an instant he was forced to make a life or death decision that would determine the fate of his 155 passengers and crew.


Seconds mattered. Ignoring textbook suggestions from the control tower to attempt an emergency airport landing, the former US Air Force fighter pilot relied instinctively on his perspective from the cockpit.

Double checking critical gauges, he and his co-pilot determined to intentionally steer the jet away from the densely populated city and bring the plane down, in of all places, the Hudson River.

One of his last commands was to passengers warning them to “brace for impact.” In the end it was his intentional leadership and perspective from the cockpit that saved the day, not doing business as usual.


While nearly every news headline carried the name of Captain Sully, there was hardly a mention of his co-pilot Jeffery Sikes. That made him no less important. Sikes was no stranger to the cockpit. He had sat in the captain’s seat many times himself. Fortunately for Captain Sully and his passengers, Sikes was the perfect co-pilot for flight 1549 that day. Together they had more than 70 years of flying experience.

In his briefing to Congress, co-pilot Sikes commented, “We must work tirelessly to maintain an unrivaled commitment to safety and professionalism. However, another component of the positive result was the vast experience of the cockpit and cabin crew. It is certainly in the interest of the traveling public to have experienced crews in the cockpit.”

Conditions rapidly changed for flight 1549 on that cold winter afternoon. Thankfully, the leader in charge relied on his instincts, his critical gauges and the valuable insight of his trusted co-pilot. Together they made the necessary adjustments to safely land the plane! Because they were intentional with their leadership the passengers and crew are alive today.

CEO’s can relate to Captain Sully, his co-pilot, passengers and crew. They understand that decisions from the corporate cockpit are often a matter of life or death for the company. Intentional leadership is the key to survival.

CEO’s recognize that business conditions can rapidly change

• The Rules for Business Have Changed.
• The global economic down turn will not be ignored. The economy has gained the attention of every CEO.

• Business as usual isn’t usual.
• Like Captain Sully, the economic engines that have sustained us have clogged. There has been a dramatic loss in thrust and altitude.

• Many CEO’s are bracing passengers and crew for impact.

The CEO’s Perspective from the Cockpit is Critical

• The views and decisions made from the cockpit are mission critical.

• The front seat is the hot seat.

• How cockpit gauges are interpreted determines if the plane soars, nosedives or glides.

• The leader holds the company’s future is in his hands.

• Many CEO’s feel like they are looking for an emergency landing

Flying Solo Spells Mayday

• Unsure who they can trust, many CEO’s quickly learn to operate solo.

• For them, it is truly lonely at the top

• Engaging stakeholders, directors and executive teams often presents more problems than solutions.

• Pressures from life at work soon spills over into personal life only making matters worse.

An Experienced Co-Pilot is Essential

• An experienced co-pilot, not autopilot, helps bring valuable perspective, confidence and clarity to the critical gauges in the cockpit.

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