Essential Soft Skills Aviation Leaders Should Have

Aviation management and leadership is an essential part of modern society. As we take to the skies, the safety of passengers and team members alike rely not just on those in the cockpit but also the people on the ground. Having the technical skills is an obvious requirement, but there are also a host of soft skills that make up a great aviation leader.

The need for great management from industry leaders also becomes more significant in times of turmoil, much like the pandemic the world is facing now. Experts note how positive thinking and the right mindset have become core characteristics for leading teams into an uncertain future. This, of course, sees its application with these soft skills.


As Steve Brechter, senior advisor at Gray Stone Advisors, told the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), astute communication is one of the four critical skills for any successful aviation director. Aside from being able to communicate well with your team, Jason Terreri of the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority also highlights the necessity of being able to articulate yourself to others outside your industry.

How leaders talk to and relate to their teams is important in getting things done efficiently, especially in a field like aircraft maintenance operations. Among their tasks are to schedule and oversee the routine maintenance and repairs of aircraft, which involve a lot of back and forth within specific teams, as well as with the Federal Aviation Administration. By learning how to communicate properly, they can cut down on time and improve efficiency across the board. Aside from communicating their tasks and commands there is also much to be gleaned from being able to understand the needs of their staff. Conveying support and having empathy are the top communication skills aviation leaders must have.

Organizational Management

If there is a soft skill that has had its importance truly highlighted in the past year, it has been effective organizational skills in management. Beyond simply being able to manage their time and tasks smartly, being an aviation leader takes a lot of flexibility. Aviation leaders need the ability to plan ahead, and to know what to do when an unexpected change is required. Good organizational management will help them communicate any rapid, or long-term, changes to their team so everyone knows what they must do.

Data has also become a key area of aviation, and aviation leaders should have a knowledge of business analytics to help improve their organization. Analytics is a key skill for those with a career in business administration across every industry, as the power and influence of data is becoming more widely recognized. Especially now coming out of the pandemic, aviation leaders must be able to see the bigger picture in order to successfully organize a return to normality, and an understanding of data will greatly aid their soft skills.


Emotional intelligence can foster a symbiotic relationship between a leader and their team. A keynote session at the NBAA GO Leadership Summit, explained that having emotional intelligence was a defining factor for many successful aviation leaders in the past year. Many branches rely on this, from delegation to cooperation, especially in the maintenance department, as employee feedback will lead to the improved safety and performance of the aircrafts under their care. Additionally, the proper maintenance of any aircraft and its operations require team members to intimately understand how each other work. The way a team works together is largely dependent on the actions of the leader. Encouraging collaboration, celebrating each member, and providing the necessary resources for them are some of the most important things they must do.

Developing these soft skills is an essential part of effective leadership. Experts at the PACDEFF CRM and Aviation Human Factors Conference have even stated that by implementing soft skills training, airline transport safety records can further improve. As it is, well-rounded aviation training has resulted in a 95% reduction in fatal accidents. Aside from ensuring physical safety, interpersonal soft skills create a mentally capable squad ready to fly into the new normal.

Guest blog submitted by Xianna Barton for


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D.O.M. magazine is the premier magazine for aviation maintenance management professionals. Its management-focused editorial provides information maintenance managers need and want including business best practices, professional development, regulatory, quality management, legal issues and more. The digital version of D.O.M. magazine is available for free on all devices (iOS, Android, and Amazon Kindle).

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