En 3 breves palabras, el CEO de Delta Air Lines acaba de impartir una clase magistral ejecutiva

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Delta Air Lines realizó su última convocatoria de ganancias la semana pasada. La transcripción tenía 14.000 palabras, pero sobresalieron tres palabras en particular: oPtimismo, esperanzay confiar.

Ed Bastian, director ejecutivo de Delta, y su liderazgo lo repetían constantemente, y creo que eso probablemente le diga algo sobre el mensaje de liderazgo que pusieron en la llamada para transmitirlo.

Este tipo de comida para llevar es típica de la clase ejecutiva que me llevó a mi libro electrónico gratuito. Flying Business Class: 12 reglas para ejecutivos de aerolíneas estadounidenses. Por eso, aconsejo a los ejecutivos de empresas de todos los tamaños y de todas las industrias que tengan cuidado con lo que están haciendo Delta y las demás aerolíneas importantes.

Este fue quizás el momento más difícil en la historia de la aviación de EE. UU.

El propio Bastian lo calificó como «el año más difícil en la historia de Delta» al comienzo de la llamada de ganancias cuando reveló que Delta había perdido $ 2.1 mil millones en el último trimestre de 2020 y $ 9 mil millones para todo el año.

Y aunque Delta ha evitado los días de vacaciones masivos que han sufrido algunos de sus competidores, la mayoría de los observadores externos no son tan optimistas como Bastian afirmó ser sobre el futuro a mediano plazo de la industria.

Diablos, solo me impresionó hace unos meses cuando el director ejecutivo de United Airlines, Scott Kirby, citó a Winston Churchill en medio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, diciendo que el optimismo adecuado para evocar era simplemente decir que nosotros había logrado. «El final del principio.»

Como Ted Reed señaló en la cobertura del atractivo de Delta para la aerolínea The Points Guy esta semana, incluso Bill Gates predijo que alrededor de la mitad de todos los viajes de negocios, incluso en el mundo posterior a la pandemia, nunca regresarían.

Entonces tu dime Si liderara una empresa y un equipo que pudieran enfrentar los desafíos de Bastian y Delta Air Lines y de toda la industria de la aviación, ¿qué estrategia seguiría?

Creo que podría ser algo con un espíritu de optimismo honesto, lo que significa que desea pintar la imagen más optimista posible sin correr el riesgo de que sus palabras vuelvan a morderlo.

Por eso, entre estas 14.000 palabras, destacaron las que trataron con esperanza, confianza y sí, optimismo.

  • Aquí, Bastian analiza los resultados de la encuesta que muestran cuánto retorno de los viajes de negocios en última instancia: «Me sentí optimista cuando vi estos resultados … Creo que los viajes de negocios tienen una oportunidad muy, muy grande [to] vuelva en los próximos dos años y estaremos bien posicionados. «
  • Para las perspectivas inmediatas a corto plazo: «[A]Si bien todavía tenemos el duro invierno por delante, los avances en el campo de las vacunas nos alientan y confiamos en que Delta podrá llevar con éxito nuestra industria hacia la recuperación … «
  • Sobre el programa de participación en las ganancias de Delta, que ha sido sólido en el pasado: «[I]Son solo un par de semanas al año, pero espero que lo paguemos. «
  • En todo el mensaje de cierre, literalmente la última línea de sus comentarios: «[W]Estamos listos para hacer cumplir esta estrategia, lo que me da optimismo y confianza en nuestra capacidad para prosperar y ser un líder de la industria. «

Por mucho que trabajo por la recuperación de la industria de la aviación de EE. UU. Y deseo lo mejor a los hombres y mujeres que trabajan en ella, no tengo ningún interés personal en Delta Air Lines.

Lo digo literalmente: no invierto en el sector de viajes ya que escribo sobre él con tanta frecuencia. También reconozco que como director ejecutivo, en una llamada de beneficios, sería bastante notable si Bastian no tuviera una perspectiva optimista para Delta.

Sin embargo, su mensaje general contradecía la sabiduría convencional. No solo lo digo, y debo pensar que esto es deliberado y envía un mensaje no solo a los inversores y partes interesadas externas, sino también a los aproximadamente 90.000 empleados de Delta Air Lines.

Actuar como líder empresarial es una línea muy fina: mantener la confianza y la seguridad, tranquilizar a las partes interesadas y, al mismo tiempo, actuar como animadora en jefe.

Pero me di cuenta de dos cosas después de informar sobre empresas como Delta durante tanto tiempo.

Primero, «Liderazgo por escala es igual a cultura», y segundo, las herramientas más poderosas de cualquier líder son sus palabras.

Si todo lo demás es igual y desea administrar su negocio de manera efectiva, «Optimismo», «Esperanza» y «Confianza» probablemente deberían estar disponibles en su conjunto de herramientas de idiomas.

(No lo olvide, el libro electrónico gratuito está aquí: Flying Business Class: 12 reglas para ejecutivos de aerolíneas estadounidenses)

Las opiniones expresadas aquí por los columnistas de Inc.com son propias, no las de Inc.com.

Bastian himself called it "the toughest year in Delta's history," at the start of the earnings call, as he revealed that Delta lost $2.1 billion in the final quarter of 2020, and $9 billion for the entire year.

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And while Delta avoided the massive furloughs that some of its competitors had to endure, most outside observers are nowhere near as optimistic as Bastian professed to be about the medium-term future of the industry.

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Heck, I was struck just a few months ago when Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, quoted Winston Churchill in the middle of World War II, opining that the appropriate amount of optimism to summon was simply to say that we had reached, "the end of the beginning." 

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As Ted Reed pointed out this week in reporting on Delta's call for the airline site The Points Guy, even Bill Gates has predicted that roughly half of all business travel will never return, even in the post-pandemic world.

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So, you tell me. If you were leading a company, and a team, facing the kinds of challenges Bastian and Delta Air Lines and the entire airline industry are facing, what would be your strategy?

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I think it might be something along the lines of honest optimism, meaning that you'd want to paint as optimistic a picture as you can, without running a serious risk that your words will come back to bite you.

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That's why among those 14,000 words, the ones about hope, confidence and yes, optimism, stood out.

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  • Here's Bastian discussing survey results suggesting how much business travel will ultimately return: "I felt optimistic when I saw those results ... I think business travel has got a very, very strong opportunity [to] return over the next two years, and we're going to be well positioned."
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  • On the immediate short-term outlook: "[A]lthough we still have the tough winter ahead of us, we're encouraged by the progress that's been made on the vaccine front, and are confident that Delta is positioned to successfully lead our industry into recovery..."
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  • On Delta's profit-sharing program, which has been robust in the past: "[I]t's just only a couple weeks into the year, but I'm hopeful that we'll be paying it."
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  • On the overall closing message, literally the last line of his remarks: "[W]e're ready to see this strategy through, which gives me optimism, confidence in our ability to thrive and emerge as the industry leader."

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As much as I root for the recovery of the U.S. airline industry, and as much as I wish only good things for the men and women who work in it, I have no personal stake in Delta Air Lines.

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I mean that literally: I don't invest in the travel sector, since I write about it so often. I also recognize that as the CEO on an earnings call, it would be pretty striking if Bastian didn't portray an optimistic outlook for Delta.

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Still, his overall message was counter to the conventional wisdom. It's not just me saying it, and I have to think that's deliberate, sending a message not only to investors and outside stakeholders, but to the roughly 90,000 Delta Air Lines employees.

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It's a fine line to walk as a business leader: maintaining trust and confidence and reassuring stakeholders, while also acting as the cheerleader-in-chief.

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But I've come to realize two things after covering companies like Delta for so long.  

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First, "leadership at scale equals culture," and second, any leader's most powerful tools are his or her words. 

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All else being equal, if you want to lead your business effectively, "optimism," "hope," and "confidence" should be probably be right up front and accessible in your linguistic toolkit.

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(Don't forget, the free ebook is here: Flying Business Class: 12 Rules for Leaders From the U.S. Airlines)

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