A Pilot’s Mindset: What Good Leadership Looks Like

It’s not always smooth sailing when it comes to flying a commercial plane. Even before take-off, many things are happening at once to make sure the flight gets from point A to point B. Pilots have to adapt quickly to respond to different scenarios whenever they happen. Good leadership isn’t about your position or how snappy your uniform looks. It’s professionalism, maturity, and experience.

In this episode, we talk to Octavian Pantiș and Captain Emil Dobrovolschi, authors of Dark Cockpit: How to Communicate, Lead, and Be in Control at All Times Like an Airline Captain. They share with us the ins and outs of what it takes to be a pilot and how good leadership can steer the entire crew and flight. They also share with us what we can learn from pilots when it comes to responding to crises and being professional at all times. 

Listen to the episode if you want to find out how piloting teaches good leadership, and can improve the way you lead your business.

3 Reasons to Listen:

  1. Learn how having a pilot mindset can make you more prepared and confident in dealing with any kind of crisis.
  2. Discover how a piloting mindset can teach you about good leadership in business.
  3. Know how maintaining a dark cockpit can change the way you lead and practice in your business. 


Episode Highlights

[02:11] Getting to Know Octavian and Emil

  • Octavian considers himself to have three hats: being an entrepreneur, an author, and a public speaker.
  • Emil sees himself as a professional. He describes a professional as someone who is doing their best to continually improve themselves and to better serve their clients.

[05:25] Romania in a Post-Pandemic World

  • Romania, as part of the European Union, is doing well amidst the pandemic. Octavian says the country’s economy is doing well.
  • Recent graduates can find a good job if they are fluent in different languages. Several companies are also investing around the area.
  • Recently, the government launched the digital nomad term which makes it easier for many to work from everywhere. It also makes it easier to get a visa and a work permit.

[07:41] Emil’s Journey to Becoming a Pilot

  • It was Emil’s childhood dream to become a pilot.
  • He learned day by day and with repetition of exercises, his hard work paid off.
  • He currently flies for the Romanian national carrier, is a senior examiner, and has a license from the European Aviation Safety Agency.
  • Emil wrote a book addressed to generic pilots, people who are piloting their businesses, families, and lives.

[12:28] The Airline Industry

  • While being a pilot might look like being free from the outside, Emil assures us that it is the contrary. There are many procedures a pilot must follow to make every flight safe.
  • A pilot’s job is a contract to bring people safely and comfortably from point A to point B.
  • As a senior examiner, Emil goes to checking sessions every six months to prove his proficiency and so does every professional pilot.
  • Octavian adds that before the pandemic there were 250,000 commercial planes in the sky at any given moment. When the pandemic hit, this number dropped to 8,000.
  • The number of flights has not recovered to pre-pandemic conditions.

[16:43] Outsider’s Perspective in the Pilot’s Leadership

  • In the cockpit, there are two persons involved: the co-pilot and the captain of the flight.
  • There are three keys to being a pilot: flight hours, maturity, and ability to take responsibility.
  • Having a pilot’s mindset as a business leader is beneficial. The factors that make a good pilot are also things to look for in good leadership.
[18:42] “Maturity means you understand what’s going on, and you make the best (out of it). You don’t haste into decisions.” - Click Here To Tweet This

[25:00] Professionalism as a Pilot

  • There are lots of procedures pilots undergo before takeoff to ensure safety.
  • A uniform doesn’t make a pilot and crew — it’s their professionalism and good leadership.
[18:54] “Superior pilots will use their superior experience to prevent a situation where they have to use their superior skills.”- Click Here To Tweet This
  • Listen to the full episode for a story about an incident that was almost a disaster, but was saved by a pilot and crew!
  • Being a pilot requires a higher level of professionalism and skill, taking thousands of hours in simulators to cover any eventuality.

[30:34] How Octavian and Emil Met and Wrote a Book

  • In 2008, Octavian was on a plane with his family for a vacation and had a smooth flight. The pilot turned out to be Emil.
[22:49] “I’m happy to encourage all the listeners, if they’re flying in a plane, they should know that the pilots are qualified to fly the plane. They have the maturity and they have responsibility. They’re not kids. They might seem young, but they’re not kids.”- Click Here To Tweet This
  • The chain of command is critical on a plane. Entrepreneurial crises usually have the business owner being the busiest.
  • In aviation, good leadership means delegating tasks so the pilot can focus on what they alone can do.
  • Octavian invited Emil to conferences where he talked about similar topics and had a great reception despite the different occupations of the audience.
  • Octavian later advised Emil to write a book about leadership in aviation. Emil tells him that they should write it together. =

[38:00] The Meaning of Dark Cockpit

  • The dark cockpit is an aviation term. It means that everything in the airplane is going smoothly.
[33:52] “(Captains) don’t make a decision, they build a decision. They take into account what’s going on here. And they’re not pushed by some tasks that they have to do. Their co-pilot is trained to do the fire extinguishing.”- Click Here To Tweet This
  • As a leader, you must aim to keep a dark cockpit. When there are too many lights and signals going off, you are wearing yourself down.

[42:21] Being in Control Vs. Not in Control

  • Being in control means controlling what you can.
  • You may not be able to avert every disaster, but knowing what to do when you encounter one and having the right attitude, changes the way you lead in your business.
  • In the pandemic, many businesses went down. You can’t control the pandemic, but you can control your response to it.
  • There are always things that are outside your control. But there are things, no matter the environment, that you can do.
  • Anticipate what can happen. Talk to people who have experienced more to broaden what you already know.
[43:28] “Control what you can. It’s the attitude. It’s the spirit of preparedness.”- Click Here To Tweet This

[48:28] Stewardship Mindset

  • A pilot is a new leader every flight because they don’t get the same crew every time.
  • Everyone in the crew must know their roles and the parts they need to play to make a flight safe and comfortable.
  • Feedback is important in making better decisions. Good leadership means knowing how to accept feedback and encourage real communication.

[52:48] Reader’s Takeaways from Dark Cockpit

  • It was a surprise for Octavian that their initial anticipated readers, the leaders, gave the book to their team so that they can become better leaders on their own.
  • Have a checklist of everything you need to do.
  • No matter the environment you’re in, do not attempt to control everything. Do the maximum of what you can.
  • You cannot succeed by yourself. The bigger your end goal is, the more important it is to be a part of a reliable team. Surround yourself with professionalism.

[57:01] Seek, Go, and Create with Octavian and Emil

  • Emil chose Create. He describes himself as a doer and does things for his career and family.
  • Octavian chose to Go. He advises trying things out and seeing if they work. You can’t tell the difference between a good idea from a bad one unless you try.

Enjoy the Podcast?

Seek Go Create is for anyone seeking excellence, moving towards success, or creating something new. We share topics, stories, and conversations that allow us to rethink how we live, work, and lead.

If you were inspired and educated by this episode, feel free to subscribe to us on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify so that you never miss another episode. Also, share this episode or what you’ve learned today on your favorite social media platform.

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To growing and becoming all we are created to be,


About the Podcast

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Seek Go Create
Redefine Success in Leadership, Business & Ministry

About your host

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Tim Winders

Tim Winders is a strategic coach, author, and host of SeekGoCreate, a podcast, and YouTube interview show. He has worked in the areas of leadership, business, and ministry for almost 40 years. Tim was the guy that looked like he had it all: the big house in a Country Club resort, two businesses valued at over a million dollars each, plus over $15 million in real estate. But, in 2008, the real estate markets crashed. After a slow and painful erosion of his companies, he and his wife were bankrupt and homeless living out of their Honda van by 2013.

Fast forward to today. Tim and his wife are still homeless, but they consider themselves essential nomads. They live, travel, and work in their 39-foot motorhome while enjoying the best locations North America has to offer. Through this journey, he is convinced that we must redefine success in order to live our best life. This topic is what he has explored with his guests on the SeekGoCreate podcast since 2019.