”Tiny things many times create big problems.”

On December 29, 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401, bound from New York to Miami, crashed into the Florida Everglades because of a twelve dollar light bulb.

As the plane approached Miami the indicator light for the deployment of landing gear failed to come on. The plane circled over the Everglades while the crew tried to figure out the problem.

Either the landing gear was not working and they had a major problem on their hands, or it was a simple case of a faulty light bulb. When one of the crew members tried to remove the bulb, he found it was stuck and would not come out.

Soon everyone inside the cockpit were so focused on the light bulb that they failed to look up and see they were losing altitude. The plane eventually slammed into the swamp killing almost everyone on board. It is a tragic example of how we can get caught up in the little things and lose sight of where we are going.

There were enough educated, skilled and experienced people in the cockpit that day to fly that plane to its destination safely. However, they were without a leader keeping his focus on the “big picture” and his eye on the goal. All the education, skill and experience in the world meant nothing on that fateful day.

As a senior leader, your job is to assemble the best team possible before you leave the runway. After you are in flight, your job is to watch two critical “indicators” above everything else. First, is the Attitude Meter, it measures the relative position of the nose of the plane to the horizon line. Second, is the Altimeter, it measures how high you are flying.

No matter how high a plane flies, if you don’t keep the attitude of the plane above the horizon line, it’s just a matter of time and you will crash. It matters little how skilled and talented your team members are if their attitudes are creating tension at best, or worse, havoc in the cockpit.

Great leaders know that their first responsibility is to monitor the “attitude” of the team. Do they have the mind of a winner and the heart of a servant? They know before they maximize the altitude, the team’s ability to fly high, they must keep the attitude above the horizon line. They also know that to reverse the order spells certain failure, it’s just a matter of time.

Is your team struggling to gain altitude, have more consistent wins? Have you checked all the “big” issues and still something seems to be missing? When was the last time you checked the Attitude Meter of your team?

“It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine.” Song of Solomon 2:15