My friend Rob Nielsen, CEO of LGL Leadership, Inc., and I delivered a series of leadership workshops to CEOs on retreat at the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, WI. To our surprise, what we found there opened our eyes in ways we had not anticipated.
This particular surprise did not come from the CEOs; it came from discovering the excellence of the EAA. The attention to detail from the entire organization was stunning, from the custom made signage for the groups on retreat, to the professional conference room and the food and beverage offerings; from the staff checking in regularly to see what they could do to make things the best for us to the truly excellent, informed and impassioned museum docents who gave us their best. Even more impressive, though, was the attitude of every person we encountered.
There had to have been some seriously excellent leadership to make such a thing happen, so we interviewed Bret Steffen, Director of Education for EAA, to see if we could learn the recipe for the EAA secret sauce. Note that this happened just two weeks before EAA AirVenture, the largest aviation gathering in the world. Bret generously offered his time even in the face of having so much preparation to do for the fly-in.
He told us that there are 130 full time employees at EAA serving 180,000 members. And there are over 5,000 people who donate their time and energy to the organization. Now, why would people do that?
You might guess that it is about their common love of airplanes and aviation. It is, after all, the organization that Paul Poberezny started in his basement many decades ago for the purpose of supporting private citizens in their enthusiasm for all things aeronautical. But that answer would be wrong . . .
. . . because Poberezny was focused on people coming together. He cared about people. He cared enough to remember Bret’s name when he was a newbie with EAA. Everybody was important to Paul. For leader Poberezny, it was all about the people and all about the relationships.
And that is how he built the amazing culture of service and connectivity that is second to none.
For great leaders, it’s all about the people. It’s all about the relationships.
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