Cranfield Advanced Development Programme
The aviation industry has been hit particularly severely during the downturn which has meant that those in senior leadership positions within the industry have had their leadership mettle tested to the very limits as they try to guide their organisations through the economic turbulence.
Steve Griffiths is Chief Operating Officer for Virgin Atlantic, a role which spans engineering, operations, airports, cargo, cabin crew, product and service. Steve has broken the conventional career path. Promoted in 2007 to Director of Engineering, responsible for all aspects of aircraft engineering and maintenance, he took on the Chief Operating Officer role at the airline early in 2009.
Steve attended Cranfield’s Advanced Development Programme in 2007 in order to support his transition to the Director of Engineering role which required significantly greater strategic leadership. Whilst his personal development and business perspective were clear to those around him stepping up to the Executive role at a time of unprecedented economic turbulence meant that he felt that he really benefited again from his leadership development on the CADP.
‘All of a sudden I was responsible for nearly 6,000 employees and all eyes seemed to be focusing on me. Furthermore, I knew that I had some very tough decisions ahead of me which were necessary for the good of the business…and that the buck ultimately stopped with me!” remembers Steve. “Even though I completed the Programme two years ago many of the core principles were deeply embedded in me. For instance, I realised quickly that as a senior executive it is necessary to have well thought out views about the business. It is only possible to develop these if you are able to take a broad view of the organisation beyond your functional silo. Critically, you need to be able to listen to other’s views across the business.”
Attending a Cranfield programme is only the start of a longer professional development journey for the managers and executives attending programmes from diverse industries and geographies. “What I value particularly is that Cranfield provides regular opportunities for me to update and refresh on the latest leadership and management thinking. It’s not just about attending one programme but ensuring that as a senior executive you invest in your development even though there are huge pressures on your time. For instance, I recently attended a one-day forum at Cranfield, Strategies for Turbulent Times which was of real practical use in helping me to grapple with some complex strategic issues.
And even after completing the Programme the Programme Director, with whom you build a close and trusting relationship, is available for continued support and counsel – I have found this invaluable. Recourse to expertise such as this from Cranfield faculty who are exposed to similar problems in other industries is extremely useful in order to provide a much-needed external, objective perspective.”
The Cranfield suite of General Management Programmes are designed to help executives deal with both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ challenges of leadership. Steve reflects on his experience of the Cranfield Advanced Development Programme, “There was a particular emphasis on personal development. After the Programme my personal awareness had increased considerably, which is particularly important when decisive action is required to deal with the challenges faced. I understood the marked difference between confidence and arrogance and the crucial impact good leaders can have on their organisations.”
“Organisations will inevitably carefully consider all non-essential expenditure but I believe that a short, sharp injection of practical and rigorous development for the very best talent within an organisation is essential, especially at a time when your team needs to be at the top of their game. By recognising who your best people are, and continuing to invest in them, organisations are more likely to retain and keep them highly motivated despite the inevitable pressures to do more with less. These transformational programmes help to build real confidence and self-belief which is required now more than at any other time in living memory.”
Steve Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic