Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Upfront with NZALPA President

President Andrew Ridling


Behavioural integrity

In my last Uplink column I talked about there being no place for bullying behaviour at any level in the aviation industry and urged all NZALPA members to call it out wherever they see it. 

In recent times bullying, harassment and bad management decisions have been seen as the norm within aviation.

We need to work in an environment that is focused on safety; where we can make professional decisions in an environment that is devoid of personal threats and other bullying behaviour. 

Reflecting on my last column, I think that some of the behaviours that we classify as bullying, harassment and bad decision making are actually seen by some as being part and parcel of being a manager. These individuals would be better to reflect on the qualities of being a true leader. 

Some in the aviation industry have clearly not read the research on leadership and management and are completely in the dark when it comes to understanding ethical and moral leadership. 

Not only do they exhibit destructive and disrespectful behaviour, but they also send a very clear signal that this behaviour is acceptable and can be adopted by others. We need to stand up to this and stop bad practices from being considered the norm or acceptable behaviour. They are not. 

I am constantly surprised by the recycling and rejuvenation of bad managers in aviation. Individuals who have failed their peers across the industry year after year in the management office keep popping up in new roles - exhibiting the same bad behaviours. Pilots and air traffic controllers’ perceptions of their leaders’ behavioural integrity correlates directly to the engagement levels reflected in the endless surveys that are rolled out in our workplaces. These perceptions are also reflected in the respect levels that are given in return.

Since my return to NZALPA in a leadership role some three years ago I have seen positive changes in many areas. Some organisations have embraced the concepts of leadership rather than management, while others still struggle with the basic definition. Good leadership is evident when followers have trust and confidence in their managers.

As an example, I can reflect on what has happened with my own employer, Air New Zealand, where we have seen leadership concepts introduced into pilot management over the last few years. These positive changes were made to management teams that traditionally operated along the lines of old boy networks. We’ve since experienced a culture change that demonstrates the values of behavioural integrity. 

Unfortunately, similar changes have not yet swept through other areas of aviation and other NZALPA employee groups.

Behavioural integrity in the aviation industry is clearly the difference between leadership and management. A leader embraces and lives by their word, delivers on their promises and enacts the same values they espouse. This is far more basic than the notions of trust or honesty; it is an alignment of what is said and what is done. The positive and powerful consequences of these attitudes are mirrored in the levels of safety that we all expect in aviation. Leadership puts safety at the point of the pyramid. Management tolerates the risk. 

NZALPA can provide leadership where others in our industry don’t step up and meet their obligations. We aim to model the type of leadership that we expect in our industry; and we want to work with our employers and support them as they make positive changes. 

Safety needs to be our prime driver and must never be compromised. Our families and the traveling public rely on our professionalism and leadership in aviation. It is important that we support organisations that embrace organisational behavioural leadership models rather than the risk model supported by the continuous recycling of some executives. What is not well understood by some is that loyalty and engagement are choices made by individual pilots and air traffic controllers. As individuals we volunteer to be engaged, no one can make us be engaged. 

Aviation industry employee surveys need to explore engagement in much greater depth. We need to consider why we are asking the questions that we are in these surveys. Individual engagement is a choice which directly correlates to the behavioural integrity of the respondent’s manager. We must hold aviation industry managers to an even higher level of behavioural integrity than we expect from ourselves as pilots and air traffic controllers.



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