By Dean Whittaker

Last Wednesday, when my cell phone rang at 4:18 AM, I thought it was my alarm to wake me for my 7:15 AM flight to Lexington, KY.  I was to teach the following day at the Kentucky Economic Development Institute. But, instead it was Delta Airlines calling to tell me my flight was going to be two hours delayed in departing, thus beginning my lesson in leadership, courage, and faith.

When I arrived at the airport a leisurely two hours before the flight, I learned that I would be missing my connection in Cincinnati and would be re-booked on a later flight arriving at 3:00 PM rather than the 10:30 AM on which I had originally planned.  Ironically, it was the same flight that I had inadvertently purchased an extra ticket for when making my reservation.  Unfortunately, I had been refused a refund on the extra ticket by the reservation supervisor.

After telling the gate agent my saga when checking in, I had my first lesson in courage.  She courageously “bent” the rules and refunded my earlier, more expensive ticket and gave me a voucher for lunch.  Hours later, when I arrived to the gate early, I encountered the flight crew. They were disappointed that the dispatcher had botched their schedule, inconveniencing passengers throughout their schedule of flight for the day.

By this time, only eight of us hearty souls had stuck around for Delta Flight 6500. Despite the obstacles each of us had experienced that day, the flight crew used their leadership and courage to make the trip enjoyable and fun. They joked with the passengers, and gave us unlimited access to snacks and “adult” beverages (another bending of the rules). They lifted our spirits and theirs on flight 6500 by the attitude they chose and by treating the situation with humor and a positive attitude. The flight crew helped reshape the experience for everyone it touched.

These examples of leadership and courage reminded me of the importance of demonstrating both as we work our way through the current economic contraction.  We need to be leaders who lead with courage and help instill confidence and faith in the future, for and in ourselves and others.  Our attitude can and will make a difference.