Flight 1549 and the Meaning of Two Little Words

“My aircraft,” said Chesley Sullenberger at a crucial moment in the drama that was the emergency landing of U.S. Air Flight 1549 in January 2009. These two little words have more meaning than you might think.

First of all, they were mandated. In an emergency situation aviation regulations and protocols require the pilot and co-pilot to announce this statement to each other. It’s the captain’s prescribed response.

Second, because it’s mandated, this means that in every emergency situation the pilot/co-pilot team say it. Makes no difference as to the individual characteristics, abilities, and skills of the people involved. But my oh my, this surface of equality belies the depths of inequalities and inequities beneath. Not everyone is Chesley Sullenberger.

Think of what it meant when Sullenberger uttered those words. Experience, devotion, training, passion, coolness, a grasp of technology and innovation, and many other things were embedded in “my aircraft.”

Are there little phrases in your life as a leader, phrases that carry with them a host of deeper and greater meanings?