Leadership Lessons from Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson

If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, check out the New York Times interview with Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson. As of this writing, it is the most emailed story from the New York Times. Anderson makes a number of interesting points about leadership, many of which bear on issues of communication and public speaking. 

One of my favorite lines is:

I’ve learned to be patient and not lose my temper. And the reason that’s important is everything you do is an example, and people look at everything you do and take a signal from everything you do. And when you lose your temper, it really squelches debate and sends the wrong signal about how you want your organization to run. And it was a good lesson.

I like this line because of the point that leaders must learn that people are watching them. When you’re speaking in front of a group, keep in mind that the audience isn’t just listening to your words. They’re watching everything about you to determine whether you’re worthy of being followed.

Of course, I also like Anderson’s point on communication. He was asked what he looks for in a new hire.

I think this communication point is getting more and more important. People really have to be able to handle the written and spoken word. And when I say written word, I don’t mean PowerPoints. I don’t think PowerPoints help people think as clearly as they should because you don’t have to put a complete thought in place. You can just put a phrase with a bullet in front of it. And it doesn’t have a subject, a verb and an object, so you aren’t expressing complete thoughts.

True that.

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