Dec. 5, 2020
The role of a maintenance leader has changed dramatically in the past decade and the knowledge required by directors of maintenance now extends far beyond technical expertise.
In the NBAA GO Virtual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (VBACE) session, “Beyond the A&P Ticket: The Expanded Role of Today’s Modern Business Aviation Maintenance Professional,” NBAA brought together some of the industry’s most accomplished leaders to discuss the skills today’s technicians need to become great managers.
“Maintainers today are not just rising to the level of a director of maintenance but to director of aviation and beyond because the maintenance community is developing and growing some of the best leaders in our industry,” said NBAA Director, Technical Operations and webinar moderator Stewart D’Leon. “This has been achieved because as a community we have adapted and embraced the soft skills that allow us to manage and appreciate the individuals and teams that we work with.”
Good leadership takes effort, noted Fern Campos, director of maintenance for the Disney Aviation Group. “People are not born with the innate qualities to be a good leader and when you go to A&P school chances are that they won’t talk about leadership. So, you must study leadership like any other skill,” explained Campos.
And for technicians looking to management as a career, Campos offered this advice: “We’re here to serve the people that work for us and give them the things that they need to succeed. That’s what sets apart a good leader from a bad leader.”
Maintenance leaders can also enhance safety by ensuring every team member is valued, said Shannon Hotchkin, director of maintenance at Nike Flight. “Leveraging the knowledge of everyone on the team, bringing everyone into the conversation is the best thing to do whenever you are talking about risk,” she said. “By being a democratic leader, you can talk about an issue, gather ideas and discuss those ideas to make the most informed decision you can.”
Technology can also equip a leader with the tools to improve safety, noted Kevin Flynn, director, aviation maintenance at AbbVie, although managers must understand that a poorly designed tool can be counterproductive. “You need to remove as many roadblocks as possible,” he noted.
Flynn also explained that today’s maintenance leaders must appreciate their role beyond the maintenance facility. “In many companies, the director of maintenance is now considered a corporate level officer,” he added. “That means that you must be a technical expert at one level but also understand that the corporation sees you as a people manager.”
Ultimately, a good leader creates an environment where the team can excel, said Andrew Kiehl, vice president, fleet maintenance for Executive Jet Management.
“One of the most rewarding things about this career is that everyone has a passion for aviation,” he explained. “When you create a workplace where they feel like they are contributing every day and where they feel like they are supported every day, and if you put yourself out there and make yourself available to your team, it will pay dividends.”