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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Helicopter Leadership


Guest post from Stephen Klemich:

It is often asked, what is the difference between Leadership and Management? For over 30 years we have always referred to Leadership as being able to rise above the situation, be objective, strategic and find time to contemplate the culture, people and one’s leadership impact. Management is on-the-ground, day-to-day task orientated, checking quality and delivery of the product and service, and looking after the people. Character-led leaders; heart-led leaders do both. It’s what we refer to as helicopter leadership. 

One of our clients in Australia has used a helicopter to get from site-to-site and I have been fortunate to fly with him many times all over Sydney – a stunning way to work! Helicopters are so maneuverable, being able to land almost anywhere, and rise above the exact position to hover over the site. When flying, we talk about the entire business, then each site, what it might need, how the people are managing it, and who we can encourage or recognize for great work. When we land at the site, as we shut down the engine while the headsets are still on, I remind the leader his role is not to look for all the things that could be better (even though there will always be something). His role is to be a culture builder, not a culture buster. He’s to look for the good, recognize excellence and ask questions. If there are a few things that need attention, wait until he is with the management team in private to ask his questions. This is how we came up with the idea of helicopter leadership. 

The great leaders we have watched build great cultures and organizations have been aware that the language of business is money: no money, no business. They understand that strategy, structure, systems, and results are extremely important, but they are also aware that their role is beyond the task, beyond the money. They are deeply aware of what underpins the sustainable results. They understand it’s culture.

These leaders know their leadership shadow is communicating a certain energy and has the ability to change the atmosphere of the workplace. They focus on ensuring their intentions come across with a positive impression to others, making their impact a positive one on the world around them. They know if they can create a safe place of we’re all in it together, then people want to belong, then they can believe and thus behave in a way that adds value to the culture. These leaders ask themselves, “why and so what”—why are we doing this and so what if we stay the same or change?

They practice helicopter leadership, where they continually rise above the day-to-day and hover, looking over the business and seeing where they can land and assist. In their “helicopter time,” they can carry big loads of problems that need to be addressed, but they also know if the load is too large and too heavy there will be a crash. They lighten the load through effective delegation with an effective management team who are all prepared to model effective behaviors such as authentic, achieving and reliable task-driven behavior and encouraging and developing people-driven behaviors.

These leaders understand the “beyonds.” In business we are often tempted to trade purpose for profit, but courageous leaders go beyond to create heart engagement . . . purpose beyond profit, meaning beyond money, commitment beyond convenience, destiny beyond the daily, to unlock in their peoples’ passion beyond pay, service beyond self, identity beyond individualism.

The heroes of great culture are great leaders, and we have been privileged to work with many that we honor. They have made our job easy!

Stephen Klemich is a longtime leadership consultant, speaker, and CEO and founder of Heartstyles and the author of Above the Line. Stephen has worked with teams across the globe, from small companies to multinational corporations such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Unilever, AMEX, and PwC. Stephen is an avid mountain climber and guide who has summitted the Matterhorn, Mount Blanc, Mt Rosa, Eiger, Monch and Jungrfau, in addition to other peaks in the Himalayas and New Zealand. In 2019 he climbed 6 peaks in the Italian Alps. He has always viewed mountaineering as an important part of his own character development journey, and he has incorporated lessons he has learned in the mountains into many of the Heartstyles programs.

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