A Powerful Example of Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

By Rick White MSc FRAeS
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The airline and travel sector have suffered an immense shock to their business. Covid-19 virus has all but dismantled the aviation and travel infrastructures, temporarily one hopes, in just over two months. Heathrow, for example, reported that the number of passengers travelling through Europe’s business airport last month was down by around 97%, when compared to April 2019.

Airline fleets large and small have been grounded all over the world. Tour operators, travel organisations, cruise operators and car rental firms have postponed all operations until at least July 2020. The word trending as a superlative for this crisis is ‘unprecedented’. This situation is indeed unprecedented in its severity against the global travel, hospitality and tourism sectors, in such a very frighteningly short space of time.

I’ve spent the last few weeks connecting with aviation and travel sector senior leaders, getting a sense of their ’State of Play’. Learning how they and their teams are managing this crisis, and where they are in their journey to ensure their business survives and comes out the other side.

What I found out was inspiring. The true professionalism and sincerity of these leaders came shining through. Yes, they had very successfully completed rapid damage limitation procedures for their respective businesses. The massive logistical operation that they and their teams completed at lightning speed was astounding. What all these very senior seasoned leaders really wanted to focus upon however was their staff, and how very proud they are of all of them. This sentiment was very quickly followed by the personal guilt these leaders felt for having to furlough such large swathes of their workforce, all of whom had worked so tirelessly to safeguard their companies. The genuine and sincere concern that these CEOs showed for their staff was humbling.

There will be many lessons learned during this crisis, most of which I would like to think will become cornerstones for us rely upon for future challenges. For me, the learning taken from this crisis is that emotional intelligence and empathy in the new normal, will become as important in the CEO job description as their academic and work experience competencies.

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