Having the right leadership and a strong culture of teamwork, the pair agreed, are critical ingredients to any successful company. If you don’t have the right leader, said de Baubigny, the company is unlikely to survive. It’s that simple.
The key steps include “starting with a great founder, creating the culture, and then hiring that first generation of your leadership team.” If you examine the leadership teams of great companies, she said, they have longevity, which creates a strong culture of values. In addition, the leadership is attractive to new team members who come on board and have the opportunity to learn from icons in the industry.
The strength of teams is also pivotal. Samant was a frequent flier before joining Delta, but when he got a glimpse behind the curtain, it changed his perspective. “I saw what it takes from a teamwork perspective to get a single flight pushed out of the gate,” he said. “There are literally a couple dozen teams, from the janitorial staff to catering to the gate, the lobby, the tower, baggage. Teamwork is ingrained in the business—if you don’t have teamwork, you’re not going to be successful.”
de Baubigny also emphasized the strength of teams with an example from Google. After studying its own organization, Google defined five important elements that allow teams and, by extension, organizations, to flourish. “One is having a safe space where you can throw out new ideas; where you can challenge and be challenged,” said de Baubigny. “You also have accountability and responsibility within your team; you’re actually going to get things done. You’re working on projects that are meaningful to the organization and have a purpose. Lastly, you can continue to learn and iterate.”
Samant, meanwhile, challenged negative stereotypes about Millennials, such as the notion that they’re self-absorbed. In his experience they’re team players, and just as value- and purpose-driven as other generations. “They want meritocracy,” he said. “They value face time with managers and mentors more than the generation that preceded them. They want to make an impact, they want a values culture, they want alignment, they want good managers, they want good leaders . . . . The Millennials who are joining Delta are blending really nicely and working together as one team.”