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'Leading the Way' Podcast: Don Carty, Former CEO, American Airlines

Great leadership is often proven during a time of crisis and this week’s Leading the Way guest, Don Carty, former CEO at American Airlines during the horrific events of 9/11, experienced this first-hand. The courageous and compassionate story of what took place that unforgettable day and the critical decisions that needed to be made while leading the airline through an abrupt transformation are what Don defines as his biggest learning experiences of true leadership. Carty, who has also served as Chairman of Virgin Airlines and Vice-Chairman at Dell Inc., shares with us many insights including his successful track record in sustaining a rock-solid culture during mergers and acquisitions.  

A rare opportunity to hear from a CEO in the rapidly changing airline industry, Don Carty takes us down the runway on the importance of agility, how to effectively communicate with the workforce, and the need for transparency within the organization. So, as you tune into this intriguing podcast, fasten your seat belt, make certain your tray table is in its full, upright and locked position, and enjoy the flight as we take off into another episode of Leading the Way.  

Key Soundbites

  • On collaboration – “There is absolutely nothing that an individual can really do all by himself when you start to think about a complex organization. You have to learn to work with a team. And in working with a team, if you’re leading the team, you have to learn that leaders go last.”  
  • On leadership – “Understanding the role you play as a leader, and how you can so easily influence the way other people think. The best thing to do is listen to them first, and then synthesize what you learn from them, add it onto your own views, and then you really get a meaningful answer.”  
  • On agility – “Most of my career was made up of an industry that was changing so rapidly that the leadership team and I understood the importance of that agility, the importance of change. The harder thing was getting all of our employees to understand it. Transparency and communication is the only way of having a chance of solving that.”  
  • On mergers and acquisitions – “When two companies come together, they always inevitably have slightly different cultures, slightly different practices. In all my experience, every time they’ve tried to blend them into a third set of culture processes, it’s failed. I think as a general matter, they tend to be more successful if we focus on integrating one culture into the other so that you sustain one culture rock solid.”  
  • On communication – “The challenge for leadership is always to figure out how to communicate. The world has changed. Our employees now all tweet and listen to blogs. We need different ways of communication, and if our organization doesn’t respond... then it simply won’t happen.”

About Leading the Way

Leading the Way is a weekly radio show and podcast series that highlights influential business leaders and leading people practices from i4cp. Co-hosted by Emmy award-winning television anchor and radio host, Scott Murray, and i4cp’s Angel Carlton, the show features interviews with respected business leaders from the world of business, sports, entertainment, healthcare and philanthropy.  

The show airs live every Sunday at 4 pm CT on KLIF 570 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, the global audience is invited to listen live on  and the weekly podcast debuts on iTunes or Google Play and the i4cp website the following week.