Mike Rowe, United Airlines and Real Leadership

After that infamous United Airlines debacle, someone on Facebook asked Mike Rowe what he thought.

Unfortunately, he missed the mark.  (Large quote follows to ensure the context is accurate.)

But the facts are clear: if you want to travel by air, you must agree to do what you’re told. If you don’t, you subject yourself to fine, arrest, constraint, forcible removal, and/or a permanent ban from the friendly skies. It’s all there in the fine print.

Personally, I support this policy. I support it because I don’t want to fly across the country in a steel tube filled with people who get to decide which rules they will follow and which they will ignore. I’ve been on too many flights with too many angry people to worry about the specific circumstances of their outrage, or the details of why they took it upon themselves to ignore a direct command. A plane is not a democracy, and the main cabin is no place to organize a sit-in. The main cabin is a place to follow orders.

The problem I have with this is simple.  Today’s leaders and authority figures, whether they are airline pilots, police or government officials, have forgotten one key component of leadership.  TRUST

I will gladly follow leaders when I know they are trustworthy.  Back in the “Good Ol’ Days”, flight crew were considered to be authoritative and customer focused.  Airplanes weren’t as reliable, so you knew you were putting yourself at risk by flying, but you had confidence that the crew cared about your comfort and safety.  In those days, if they had space issues on a plane, they would give you royal treatment for cooperating.  In the case of Doctor Dao, his wife was apparently also on the plane.  Was she also asked to leave?

You want me to follow your orders, then you need to earn my respect and my trust.  If you are in uniform, airlines or otherwise, you start out with a default amount of respect and trust, because of that uniform.  However, your actions are what I will be watching, to ensure my safety and the safety of my family and fellow passengers.  A plane may not be a democracy, but the main cabin is no place to turn loose your untrained dogs of war.  That is exactly what United Airlines did that day.