How Does easyJet's CEO Cope With Uncertainty? 

By James Mills, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International

Carolyn McCall has been the CEO of easyJet since 2010 and has been instrumental in turning around the airline's fortunes in this time. She left her role as Chief Executive of the Guardian Media Group to face critics and sceptics and lead easyJet into the FTSE 100 in 2013. She is responsible for leading a company that currently turns over £5 billion and employs more than 10,000 staff to transport 70 million passengers in a year. The competitive and fast-moving nature of air travel means that uncertainty is something she faces on a daily basis!

It was through the Management Today publication following Ms McCall for the day that four ways of dealing with uncertainty stood out. We all face uncertainty in our lives, so we don't have to be a CEO to apply these as you'll see at the bottom of the article in the application section...

1. She Accepts She Will Be Judged

A key aspect of her CEO role is making decisions - imagine what would happen if she feared judgment from others and lacked trust in her ability to make decisions because of the fear she may upset others....

"Look, it's easier now than at the beginning. My first eight months was an assault course. But I do now feel on top of it. You couldn't survive otherwise. So intense - people judging you every minute internally and externally. Innate confidence is very helpful. You need to be sure of your instincts."

2. She Expects Uncertainty

There is so much that can affect the ability of an airline to transport passengers from one place to another which can be incredibly challenging unless it is expected....

"The hardest thing is the external factors. Those things beyond your control that affect what you do. So fuel, foreign exchange, ATC strikes, volcanoes. You name it. All you can do is plan for uncertainty and manage it well when it happens. That's what makes airlines different. It's full on all the time. Never lets up. It's Sunday and you're laying there and the phone goes ..." 

3. She Provides Certainty Through Vision

Uncertainty can be disconcerting for many people and any responsible leader needs to address this through the way they interact with people...

"They want you to take that uncertainty away from them. Take it on board. So, you have to be clear what the vision is. For me leadership is having that strategic vision but also the ability to communicate it. You have to bring people with you. That's how you deliver."

4. She Is Real With People

Carolyn McCall recognises that she needs people on her side to face uncertainty and come up with solutions for any problems encountered. She has found being open and honest with people has encouraged others to do the same with her...

"Everyone says it but she really does have that great knack of making you believe you are the most important person in the world when she's speaking to you. She not only listens carefully but she hears. You can brief her very fast. But she really is a tough negotiator. I like the fact she can smell bulls**t at 100 paces." - Ian Davies, Director of Engineering, easyJet

How We Can Apply Carolyn McCall's Experience To Our Lives?

These are universal pieces of advice that apply to us as employees, business owners and family members. Here are a couple of questions to reflect on to help relate this to our own individual situations....

  1. How do you find you react when faced with uncertainty?
  2. In an ideal world, how would you like to handle uncertainty?

To learn more about how Carolyn McCall spends her time running the day-to-day operations of easyJet whilst also investing in the future of the business, you'll have to have a read of this Management Today article.

If you are wary that becoming more successful may become overwhelming, then reading this article on The 4 Ways Legends Cope With the Demands of Success is a must!!


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