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Leaders in Aviation: Charles Lindbergh

Theophilus N Okrah

Institution Affiliation

Leaders in Aviation: Charles Lindbergh

To understand the leadership skills and traits of Charles Lindbergh, it is paramount to evaluate his life events. Therefore, one of the most outstanding pilots, who is known all over the world, Charles Lindbergh, was born on February 4, 1902 in Detroit (Michigan, USA) to the employees’ family. Charles’ father, Lindberg Sr., was a congressman and a pacifist (Milton, 2014). Due to his outlook, he protested against the US participation in the First World War. Charles entered the University of Wisconsin at the Faculty of Engineering Mechanics, where he got carried away by aviation (Milton, 2014). In 1922, he left the Faculty of Mechanics, becoming a cadet at the flight school in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, he did not have the means to continue studying (Milton, 2014).

To earn and sustain his living, Charles went on a trip to the United States. Lindbergh jumped a lot using a parachute, performing intricate stunts. Certainly, this attracted the attention of the public. A year later the flight program was completed, and Lindberg settled into the garage as a mechanic. In the winter of 1925, Charles returned to his father’s house, which was located in Minnesota, and had not flown for six months (Milton, 2014). His first flight took place only in the spring. He bought a biplane named “Jenny-JN-4” for $ 500 and half an hour tested it in the air (Milton, 2014).

As early as in 1919, New York hotel owner R. Orteig offered $ 25,000 to the first pilot who would make a non-stop flight from New York to Paris. Several attempts were made to win the prize (Milton, 2014). Lindberg decided to try his luck as well, but the preparation of the flight required much money and additional preparation. He persuaded several businessmen to help him with financing (Simons, 2015). By his order, the company “Ryan Airlines” from San Diego released a special aircraft, which was a single-engine monoplane (Milton, 2014).

Lindberg himself participated in the development of the project. May 10-11, 1927 Lindberg experienced a plane flying from San Diego to New York, with overnight stay in St. Louis (Milton, 2014). The flight took 20 hours 21 minutes (Milton, 2014). The length of the route covered approximately 5800 km. The same year, May 20, at 7.52 am, Lindberg starts his flight from the Roosevelt Field on Long Island in New York and on May 21, at 17.21, he lands at Le Bourget (Milton, 2014). For a transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh was awarded the Flight Cross, becoming the first pilot to receive this award. He becomes the most popular person in the US due to his outstanding flight performance and uniqueness.

The flight career of Lindbergh was extremely successful and he was asked to participate in different flight projects. In December 1927, due to the request of the US government, Lindbergh flew to Latin America as a symbol of American goodwill. In Mexico, he met Anne, the daughter of US Ambassador Dwight Morrow (Milton, 2014). The wedding took place in 1929 (Milton, 2014). Charles taught his wife to fly. This experience – along with the previous flying experience – the leadership qualities of Lindbergh become more and more prominent (Simons, 2015). Spouses made air expeditions around the world. At this time, America was shaken by the most severe economic crisis.

To develop his leadership skills and talents, Lindbergh decides on spreading his expertise to other fields of human knowledge. In the course of 1931-1935, Lindberg together with a pioneer in vascular surgery, Nobel Prize laureate, Alexis Carrel, performed experiments on the application of the first device of artificial circulation (Milton, 2014). March 1, 1932, Lindbergh’s son was kidnapped by a year and a half. About ten weeks later the body of the boy was found: the child was killed a few hours after the abduction (Milton, 2014). In 1934, Lindbergh managed to catch the alleged killer, Bruno Hauptmann. Regardless of how it might sound, the leadership skills was a must to perform the search. However, Bruno Hauptmann did not admit his guilt. The jury found Bruno guilty of abduction and premeditated murder, and on April 3, 1936, Hauptmann was executed by the means of an electric chair. In 1935, after the trial Lindberg with his wife and eldest son John, who was then three years old, moved to Europe.

In Europe, Lindberg was invited by the governments of France and Germany to tour the aviation industry. In Germany, he was delighted with the highly developed production and discipline of workers (Hallion, 2016). In 1938, Goering, on behalf of Hitler, Lindberg handed the German Order of the German Eagle (Milton, 2014). In turn, this caused a violent reaction in the United States: the aviator was accused of accepting the ideas of Nazism.

In the prewar years and in the initial period of the Second World War (before the USA had joined the military operations) Lindberg supported the actions of Nazi Germany, appealed to the US Jews with the call not to drag people into the war, etc. In 1941, Lindbergh became one of the leading representatives of the First Committee, an organization that opposed the voluntary entry of America in the Second World War (Milton, 2014). Lindberg criticized the foreign policy of President Franklin Roosevelt. Certainly, the President did not like this and had a very negative attitude toward the pilot. To behave similarly to this, Lindbergh had to be characterized as a courageous person who possesses numerous leadership qualities.

In response to a public condemnation of Roosevelt, the military aviator resigned. Lindberg became a technical consultant and test pilot for the Ford company and the United Aircraft Corporation. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Lindberg, however, applied for the rotation in military service, which he was denied by the president due to the reasons mentioned (Milton, 2014). In April 1944, Lindberg, as a civilian adviser to the United States Army and navy, sent to the front in the Pacific. After the war, Lindbergh worked as a consultant to the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him to the position of a brigadier general of the Air Force (Milton, 2014). PanAmerica hired Lindbergh as a consultant. Finally, Charles Lindbergh died of cancer on August 26, 1974 in his home on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The Leadership Qualities of Charles Lindbergh

Throughout the studies of flight labor, it is possible to enumerate the numerous professionally important qualities of the military pilot. As a rule, they comprise intellectual, personal, psychophysiological, physiological, physical traits, which are supposed to be extremely developed. Herein, according to the numerous studies, Charles Lindbergh was characterized by each of the traits as he developed them in the course of his life. In addition to this, these were developed due to the numerous circumstances, which beheld his life (Mayo, Nohria, & Rennella, 2016). The level of development of these qualities in Lindbergh determined the level of professional suitability and predicts the professional reliability.

A number of studies have been carried out on the most necessary aspects in the existing structure of the pilot’s professionally important qualities. Hence, Mayo, Nohria, and Rennella (2016) found that the professional reliability of Lindbergh depended not only on the availability of his professionally important qualities and flight capabilities as a combination of personal characteristics, but on the broader individual psychological characteristics he possessed. The scholars who investigated the personality of Lindbergh point to the fact that the personal military capacities of the pilot are referred to as a long-term focus on flying activities, adequate self-esteem, the ability to adapt to different conditions (which presuppose adaptive abilities) (Bednarek, 2013). They also comprise resistance to adverse effects (Mayo, Nohria, & Rennella, 2016). Identifying the certain traits that were professionally important for Lindbergh during his career, this was purposefulness, strong will, perseverance, determination, diligence, courage, readiness for conscious risk, etc. A sense of duty, honesty, decency, partnership constituted the moral qualities of Lindbergh (Mayo, Nohria, & Rennella, 2016). The propensity to Lindbergh’s leadership, communication, aspiration for professional excellence are part of the social professionally important qualities’ group (Bednarek, 2013). However, over the career of Lindbergh, communication with the changing requirements for the level of training of military pilots, the selection and training system began to demand more detailed approach to their personality.

In terms of the degree of severity of factors, it can be said that the main personality trait of Lindbergh: abstract thinking, quick learning, high general intellectual abilities, developed self-control, the accuracy of fulfilling social requirements, the ability to control one’s emotions and behavior well, to bring every thing to the end, purposefulness and personal integration (Mayo, Nohria, & Rennella, 2016). Thus, the personal feature of Lindbergh was the high qualification. He was concentrated on the desire for compromise and cooperation in conflict situations. If this behavioral strategy cannot be implemented, the strategy of avoidance was a personally significant resource for Lindbergh.


To sum it all up, the complicated events in the life of Lindbergh created his numerous leadership skills and impacted, a as consequence, the development of the aviation to a certain extent. Due to the fact that the professional training of a military pilot has always been a multifaceted, system process, the success of which is due to a large extent integrity of a professional person. An analysis of the connection between the life and profession of Lindbergh showed that the pilot possessed the most important professionally important qualities, as defined in the concept of flight skills. At the same time, in Lindbergh, the certain personal characteristics occupied a significant place. The biography of Lindbergh points to the fact that everything he had to go through in his life, made a great contribution to his leadership development. In addition to this, the professional skills grew as well. This internal tension could simultaneously perform two functions: both positive and potentially negative for the personality of the pilot and the success of his professional activities. A positive function is to induce the functional tension necessary to carry out military professional activities. Potentially negative one was the possibility of neuropsychiatric breakdowns, the risk of which it is possible to predict in a state of fatigue, workloads, social tension. The personality traits of Lindgbergh attached him to a high-class professional. 


Bednarek, J. R. (2013). Open Sky: The Broad Range of Recent Scholarship in Aviation History. Mobility in History, 4(1), 89-94.

Hallion, R. P. (2016). Transforming American aviation. The 1930s: the reality and the Promise, 375.

Mayo, A., Nohria, N., & Rennella, M. (2016). Entrepreneurs, managers, and leaders: What the airline industry can teach us about leadership. Springer.

Milton, J. (2014). Loss of Eden: A biography of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Open Road Media.

Simons, P. (2015). Aviation's Heartland: The Flying Farmers and Postwar Flight. Agricultural History, 89(2), 225-246.

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