I am a helicopter leader—but it’s a positive thing!
The first time my French children went to a summer camp in the United States, I learned the American expression “helicopter mom.” At first, I thought it was kind of a superpower, but I quickly realized that it was not a very positive description. And, clearly, I was one of them, hovering over my children’s lives, making their decisions for them to try and ensure they were on a path to success and happiness.
Of course, it was not good for my kids, and I needed to adjust my parenting style.
But after completing my Edhec MBA and reflecting on my 15 years of experience in strategy, I think being a “helicopter” is a superpower—at least in business. Here are a few ways helicopter leaders can help your company remain competitive and safe.
They Can See The Future Coming (Before Others)
With the ability to “zoom out” and see a 360° perspective of a situation, helicopter leaders are great at noticing subtle changes that may affect your business down the road, whether that’s new trends that could help you grow or potential risks that could bring you down. This high-level mindset can also easily see why a company is attractive (or not) to a market.
I used to work for an industrial company supplier in the automotive industry. In this operational environment, the CEO’s team got stuck in a “fix-it” mode. They were so focused on the day-to-day of factory operations—handling administrative and equipment issues and the like—that they couldn’t see where the company was going. It was difficult for them to stay competitive in their market.
I helped them “zoom out” and reflect on their company as a whole. They identified why their customers wanted to buy from them and defined the adequate context for success.
This perspective can help you visualize the future of your company, and innovate and adapt no matter what the challenge ahead.
They Can Quickly Move From Broad to Deep
Helicopter leaders also have the ability to “zoom in” to complex business problems and create tangible solutions. Using extensive knowledge on their stakeholders and expertise of a broad range of disciplines, markets, and industries, they add value in a variety of specific situations and crafted a perfect detailed solutions to make things happen.
I have also worked with bright startups that had a perfect knowledge of their competitive advantage but seemed unable to actually make any of it happen. This “zoom in” ability was helpful for identifying priorities and setting up systems for getting things done.
They Can Stay Above Challenging Situations
It doesn’t just take good strategy and execution to get things done—it takes the right attitude. If you have worked in business for some time, you’ve probably noticed that nothing is ever certain and challenges pop up all the time. Helicopter leaders have the attitude to not only survive challenging situations but really thrive in them. They are able to rise above the drama of a situation to see the whole ecosystem and channel that holistic knowledge into creating solutions.
I was once hired to create and set up an art concept in a foreign country. It was a very important project which required my strategic, branding, and marketing expertise. When I arrived to create the project, I realized that many problems were still that were preventing me from even getting started. The building where we were supposed to be working wasn’t even finished, the staff was demoralized, and so on. Of course, I couldn’t let these challenges jeopardize the success of project. Instead, I taught my team what I’ve learned as a mom—that if you have a problem that can be solved with action, then you don’t really have a problem. By building a spirit of problem-solving around the project—and always keep the end goal in mind—we were able to get it done.
So, yes, I am a helicopter leader—but it’s a positive thing! It helps me to craft and operate meaningful strategies to develop a company’s success.
And my helicopter mom style? With a daughter who lives 4,000 miles away and a teenage son who is learning to become a pilot, I’ve managed to let go a little—and channel all my helicopter abilities into my work.
Laurence Duarte is a senior strategic executive with 20+ years of experience helping businesses grow in industries including consumer products industries and high-tech corporations. More on workwithlaurence.com