GNT #072: [Secrets Out] I Didn't Build an Airplane

GNT #072: [Secrets Out] I Didn't Build an Airplane

purpose-driven growth purpose-driven leadership Jun 06, 2024

read time: 4.5 minutes

"You keep saying WE built the airplane, but it doesn't look like you did all that much."


This is an actual comment I received regarding the Vans RV-10 airplane my husband, Ed, and I built from 2012-2015.


[I'm channeling Rosie the Riveter]

My initial reaction to the comment?


I vividly recall my literal blood, sweat, and tears during the build.

But as I let that defensiveness go, an interesting perspective is revealed from that of the commenter.

—Why do they believe a team member is any less important in the pursuit of a purpose?


Ed was the visionary of our build.

He was passionate about the idea, led the technical aspects, and the overall planning.

Taught himself and me how to rivet, dimple, and deburr.

And was the brains behind capturing the timelapse of the entire build process.

And my role?

I was the engaged and supportive doer.
Fit in all the tight spaces for fabrication.
Sounding board when things got tough.
Ensured the rest of our lives kept moving.

And when our son, EJ, was born in 2014, I focused on taking care of him.

Because I wasn't just doing my tasks.

I was working towards our vision of experiencing life and travel as a family.

That's what the commenter missed...

Great leaders know every team member is critically important to the mission.

And it's the leader's job to paint the vivid vision of a bright future.

Ed helped me, an afraid of heights, air-sick, claustrophobic, see and believe in a beautiful future of our family experiencing our world.

And most importantly, he helped me see my place in it.

Today, we're learning from the world's greatest purpose-driven leaders who inspired their teams to move mountains — and how you can learn from them to do the same.

Let's get to it.

NASA and the Moon Landing

During a visit to NASA in the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy encountered a janitor who was mopping the floor.

When Kennedy asked what he was doing, the janitor replied, "I'm helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President."

[image cred Joe Byerly - Bing Image Creator]

NASA demonstrated the power of purpose-driven leadership.

Every role, no matter how small, contributes to a greater mission.

Lessons for Leaders:

  • Communicate the Vision Clearly: Connect the dots, communicate, ensure that every employee, from engineers to janitors, understands how their work contributes to the mission. Regular updates, milestone celebrations, and highlighting individual contributions creates a unique culture where everyone feels valued and connected to the larger purpose.
  • Create a Sense of Belonging: By linking everyday tasks to the broader mission, you can help every team member feel they are part of something bigger. This sense of belonging is so important for maintaining morale and motivation when challenges arise.


Howard Schultz Inspired Starbucks to Dream Bigger

When Schultz took over as CEO in 1986, he envisioned not just a place to get coffee but a "third place" between home and work where people could relax, connect, and feel a sense of community.

This focus on a broader purpose helped Starbucks grow from a small Seattle coffee chain to a global brand with over 30,000 locations.

In Schultz' masterclass on leadership, he emphasized the importance of aligning business goals with core values and social responsibility.

Lessons for Leaders:

  • Create a Mission Beyond Profit: Schultz focused on creating a unique customer experience and building a community around coffee. This helped differentiate Starbucks from other coffee shops and supported a loyal customer base. Do you have a clear and compelling mission statement that reflects the broader purpose of your business? How can you truly incorporate it into every aspect of your business from marketing to customer service?
  • Invest in People: Believing that well-treated employees would provide better customer service, Schultz introduced benefits like healthcare for part-time workers and stock options. This resulted in high levels of engagement and loyalty, better customer experiences, and lower turnover rates. How can you provide impactful benefits, professional development, incentives, or opportunities for recognition?
  • Encourage Open Communication: Schultz maintained open lines of communication with employees at all levels, frequently visiting stores and holding town hall meetings. This transparency built trust and ensured people felt heard and valued. What channels are you using to keep your teams informed, engaged, and listened to?

Cultivating a Purpose-Driven Team

Great leaders don't just check the box. They understand the value of every team member and support a culture where people feel connected to the mission.

"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first." — Simon Sinek

"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet." — Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh

"Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being."

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." — John C. Maxwell

"The role of a great leader is not to give greatness to human beings, but to help them extract the greatness they already have inside them." — J. Buchan


I sometimes think about how the airplane build would have gone if Ed hadn't involved me.

Helped me to see my role in it.

It likely it would have put a huge strain on our relationship.

And we wouldn't have realized what a great team we are in achieving big projects in our life -- like our home remodel of 2021 or the creation of Saunable in 2023.

Working on the airplane together brought us closer, helped us achieve our dream, and set us up to envision more.

Are you helping your team members see their role in a bright future?

Build it.


See you next week.



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