Pilots Make Good Leaders: Notre Dame Study

Individuals that have trained to fly private aircraft intrinsically possess thrill-seeking characteristics that lends to them being more effective CEOs than non-pilots, according to a new study conducted by professors from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Oregon. This study explores the link between the risk taking characteristics of pilots and how this affects major business decisions such as financing deals, mergers and acquisitions and debt accumulation. The general belief posits that individuals that are willing to take great risks in their personal lives will transfer these same qualities into their business decision process.

These high flying, thrill-seekers are considered to be much more aggressive than their non-flying counterparts when it comes to running a corporation. As a result of these traits, these CEOs are believed to add more value to their firms. Activities such as utilizing more leverage as it relates to capital structure and being more likely to execute acquisitions, demonstrates these individuals are more willing to take risks that may lead to higher financial rewards. This information was gathered, in the same study, by comparing the business decisions of 179 CEOs with pilot licenses to 2,900 CEOs without a pilot license.

Researchers focused on CEOs that enjoyed flying small aircraft by looking up records in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) airmen certification database. Their research was influenced by the Sensation Seeking Scale, initially put together by a psychologist during the 1970s that has since been used in many other psychology studies. The intent of the study was to measure the different kinds of behaviors displayed by sensation seekers, including risk-taking activities and cognitive innovation.

The study revealed CEOs that scored high on the Sensation Seeking Scale are inclined to run a business more successfully than CEOs that were rated as non-sensation seeking individuals. The researchers are of the opinion that these risk taking CEOs have a level of creativity and discipline within their characteristics that leads them to deals that increase the growth prospects of their corporations.

It is also believed that pilots also make great leaders within the corporate arena. Pilots that have flown in battle and have gone on to run major corporations, were noted for being among the best leaders and business decision makers within their particular industries. Pilots that have had to face countless life-threatening decisions with a sense of calm and reason have proven themselves to be invaluable assets in the daily operations of heading multi-billion dollar firms.

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