We can learn valuable leadership lessons from almost any situation. In fact, we can gain quite a bit of insight from something as simple as a flight.

We can learn valuable leadership lessons from almost any situation.

In fact, we can gain quite a bit of insight from something as simple as a flight.

Early morning flights are never easy.

When you have to drag your tired butt onto a connecting flight hours before the sun is up, it becomes even more of a challenge.

During a connecting flight from Texas to Florida a few years ago, I found myself exhausted and in an awkward predicament as I pondered having an in-flight nap.

As I sat down in my assigned seat, I found that my seatmates were a young mother and her 18-month-old.

I was a little worried about a fussy toddler, screaming and crying for the 2.5-hour flight.

My worry subsided as the young girl’s mom pulled out a wallet with play money and some expired gift cards.

The little one started to pull the contents out of the wallet and hand them over to me – one card at a time.

Once the wallet was completely empty, she would take her prized possessions out of my hand and start placing them back into the wallet.

Amazingly, the tiny tot was more than content to play this little game for the duration of our flight.

When the plane finally landed, I thanked my fellow passengers for keeping me company, took an Uber to my hotel, and slept for several hours.

What leadership lessons can we learn from being seated by a young mom and a toddler on a 2.5 hour flight?

1. Leaders are Adaptable

I was exhausted at the point that I was getting onto my connecting flight, and was ready to take a nap.

But I had to adapt to the situation of being on an early morning flight with a potentially disruptive toddler.

Leaders should be adaptable and handle unexpected challenges with grace.

2. Leaders Show Empathy & Compassion to Others

My initial worry turned into understanding and empathy for the mother and child.

Leaders should strive to understand and empathize with their team members, recognizing that everyone has unique circumstances.

3. Leaders are Patient

Dealing with a temperamental toddler required patience.

Leaders often encounter situations that require patience when working with their teams or handling complex issues.

4. Leaders are Resilient

I was confronted with a challenging situation, but didn’t let it deter me from having a positive experience.

Leaders should be resilient in the face of adversity and maintain a positive attitude.

5. Leaders Take Care of Themselves

I was completely exhausted after my flight. 

At that point, I recognized the importance of self-care and took an Uber to the hotel to rest.

6. Leaders Exhibit An Attitude of Gratitude

Leaders must prioritize self-care to maintain their well-being and their effectiveness.6. Leaders Exhibit An Attitude of Gratitude

Despite my lack of sleep, I was grateful to my fellow passengers.

Leaders should acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and contributions of others.

7. Leaders are Problem Solvers

The young mother demonstrated problem-solving skills by using play money and gift cards to entertain her child.

Leaders should be adept at solving problems and finding creative solutions to obstacles.


It is indeed true that we can find profound leadership lessons from the seemingly ordinary experience of a morning flight shared with a young mother and her toddler.

Leadership qualities are not confined to formal settings but can be observed and honed in everyday life.

From adaptability to empathy, patience to resilience, self-care to gratitude, and problem-solving, the story illuminates various facets of effective leadership.

These lessons remind us that leadership is not limited to professional environments; it extends to how we navigate and positively influence the world around us, even in the most unexpected situations.

Ultimately, this story and its lessons serve as a testament to the idea that leadership is a dynamic and ever-evolving journey, one that constantly presents opportunities for growth and self-improvement, whether we’re sitting on a plane or leading a team in the workplace.

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