June 27, 2023

The first Summer Leadership Series webinar for 2023 examined the profound effects stress can have on our physical and emotional health, and the importance of recognizing those impacts to best serve as effective leaders in our industry.

Held June 27 and sponsored by the NBAA Business Aviation Management Council (BAMC), “Am I Fit for Leadership?” tackled that question in a post-pandemic world that continues to negatively affect our emotional and physical wellbeing and even our decision-making abilities.

“Statistics show that we’ve become overwhelmed with decision fatigue,” said Dustin Cordier, chair of the BAMC Leadership Development Subcommittee. “And the evidence shows that people are acting pretty erratically [as a result].”

That also carries real-world consequences, with Cordier citing a series of stark figures from The Wall Street Journal. “Seventy-five to 90 is the percentage of people whose health care visits are related to stress,” he explained. “Forty-eight percent of people have trouble sleeping at night due to stress.”

“Aviation is one of the most regulated industries [and] we have checklists and redundancies to protect us from just about everything possible,” added BAMC member Lori Johnson. “Yet, do we regularly take the time to measure our own ability to complete our mission and serve our companies to the best of our ability?”

Fortunately, there are tools to help business aviation professionals understand how they react to stress and learn to mitigate its detrimental effects. One is the “Wheel of Life,” an interactive app to help visualize the important areas of our lives and our success in meeting their obligations.

“Eating well, exercising and taking the time to rest and sleep are three ways to help us adapt better to stress,” Johnson said. “A Wheel of Life-type exercise and cadence can provide mindful contemplation of where you are, and where you want to be, to help you stay in that balanced mindset.”

Similarly, many smartphones and watches can now measure heart rate variability, a key physiological indicator of physical fitness and the body’s ability to perform and respond to external factors.

“We’re in aviation,” Cordier said. “We don’t go to work for eight hours with a bluebird singing on our shoulder and then go home to rest [or participate in] activities and hobbies. There are days where we work all day [and even] all week. That completely consumes all of our bandwidth.

“The key is to not let a bad day turn into a bad week; turn into a bad month; turn into a bad year,” he concluded. “We have tools to say, ‘OK, here’s where I’m at and here’s what I can do to fix that.'”