Are you an aspiring business aviation manager? If so, it’s important to be prepared, and part of that preparation is to understand all of the different “hats” you’ll need to wear as you advance through the leadership ranks.

As an aviation recruiter, I often hear people tell me: “I’ve been in our flight department for 20 years, so I’m ready for the next step.”

And my response typically is: “That’s great! Explain to me how you’ve prepared yourself for that next position.”

Unfortunately, and all too often, many of these potential candidates can’t demonstrate the requisite business and leadership skills that their employer (our clients) expect.

And so I offer them, and everyone else in these circumstances, a word of caution: do not simply assume that because you’ve been successful up until now, and you’re good at your job, that the next-level position will automatically fall in your lap.

In order to take that next step, it’s important to not only have the technical experience, but also to be very versatile and experienced when it comes to leadership and business.

So, all that said, what are some of the various “hats” you’ll need to wear as a business aviation manager?

Following, in no particular order of importance, is a list of just some of them:

  • HR-related tasks—Hiring, firing, writing annual reviews, providing constructive feedback and more.
  • Leading and attending team meetings—Cross-functionally and by function as well as with corporate.
  • Mentoring/coaching—Is the team working well together? Do they understand the vision and mission of the company and how the flight department fits into the process?
  • Delegation—Getting work done through others.
  • Succession planning—Ensuring there’s a plan in place for strategic positions in the event of a retirement or resignation.
  • Budgeting—A flight department is a business unit, after all, so there can be no financial surprises.
  • Communicating—With the C-suite or Family Office, your reporting executive (boss), HR, procurement, finance and accounting as well as your team and your travelers.
  • Troubleshooting problems—From maintenance to technology to customer service issues.
  • Strategic planning—Knowing where your company and department are headed.
  • Vendor management—Working with OEMs, MROs, insurance providers, aircraft brokers, parts suppliers, trip providers, FBOs, fuel companies, software providers, consultants, etc.
  • Training—For initial and recurrent to skills training, as well as developmental training.

That’s a long list—and of course the duties and requirements for each aviation manager role will vary by flight department. The one common denominator is that everyone will need to have many competencies—or wear many “hats”—in order to succeed.

To sum it up, your advancement isn’t likely to occur because of your years of experience, how many hours you’ve flown or what you’re typed or trained in.

When and if you’re tapped to move ahead into aviation management or directorship, it will be your readiness and versatility—the number of “hats” you can demonstrate being able to wear—that most likely will make all the difference in the world to your hiring manager.

You might have been in a flight department for 20 years or more, but if you’ve been wearing the same old hat throughout, it might appear a little tired and out of style to the people responsible for moving your career forward.

There’s always room for improvement. One way to turn the situation to your benefit is to ask someone in your department that you admire to become a professional mentor, and another is to try and tap as many industry resources as you can for professional development.

Your Turn

What are the different “hats” that you wear as a leader? Please share them in the comments section below.

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