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Leading High-Risk Teams in Aviation

Leadership Lessons from Compelling Contexts

ISBN: 978-1-78560-942-8, eISBN: 978-1-78560-941-1

Publication date: 3 March 2016


Despite air travel having become a widely used means of transportation, the technological sophistication and human skill required for flying an aircraft remains a source of fascination and admiration. Aviation has been coined an ultra-safe system, coping with the duality of safety and efficiency by emphasizing expertise and learning, but also standardization and automation. Highly selected and continuously trained pilots have to work with increasingly complex and autonomous technology, which creates tensions between routinization and responsible action. Research on leadership and coordination in aircrews is reviewed in light of these tensions, pointing to the benefits of a functional approach to leadership which promotes optimal use of all resources in the team toward adaptive coordination. Furthermore, the leadership requirements arising from the fact that aircrews are ad hoc teams, usually only formed for a few flights, are discussed in terms of fast team-building coupled with the reliance on shared knowledge stemming from high levels of standardization. Due to the complex demands for leadership in aircrews, special training programs were developed early on, which have become a standard that many other high-risk industries are still striving for. The generalizability and need for further development of concepts embedded in successfully leading aircrews is scrutinized, focusing especially on leadership in ad hoc teams, the interplay of standardization and leadership, and the balance between shared and formal leadership.



Grote, G. (2016), "Leading High-Risk Teams in Aviation", Leadership Lessons from Compelling Contexts (Monographs in Leadership and Management, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 189-208.



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