Icelandair is actively recruiting for its Chief Operating Officer in Reykjavík, Iceland and I applied, here’s why.
Icelandair Is Hiring A Chief Operating Officer (COO)
I was targeted with a Facebook ad (I’ll call it “recruited”) with regards to an open job position, Chief Operating Officer. As they reached out to me, it would be rude not to take a closer look. I found few details on the Icelandair website (the first thing I will change once I take the helm) but I did find the job offer on LinkedIn.
Here’s what they are looking for:
Icelandair Group is searching for a strong and experienced individual to lead the company’s operations. We are looking for a leader who has a strong passion for working with diverse groups of people to ensure efficient and responsible airline operations. Operations is the most extensive division within the Company, consisting of crew, technical and maintenance operations, airport services and other support functions.
The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is the Accountable Manager for the company’s airline operations, responsible for the management and safety systems appropriate for the scope of the operations. The COO provides a motivating and enjoyable work environment for employees, enabling them to deliver their very best.
The Chief Operating Officer reports to the Chief Executive Officer, is a member of the Executive Committee of Icelandair Group, and contributes to the implementation of the company’s strategy to reach its short- and long-term goals.
- Post-graduate education fit for the role (e.g. within engineering, airline operations or finance)
- Experience of airline operations
- Experience of managing quality systems or other management systems
- Outstanding leadership ability and an interest in interacting with others
- Strong capabilities to organize, lead and encourage diverse teams
- Passion to reach success with a clear vision and goals.
Applications are accepted until the end of today, October 3rd, 2021.
Why I Applied
As a matter of full disclosure… I don’t meet all of the qualifications for the role of COO – at least not by Icelandair’s COO job description. I don’t have direct experience in airline operations, which one might think would be key for a member of the senior management team responsible for the day-to-day operations of an airline. I think Human Resources and I can both agree that this is a minor factor.
The position is also located outside the United States, and while I have no problem relocating or remote working, something tells me that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and COO are likely expected to be physically in the office full-time.
Outside of those minor issues, I actually qualify for the position as a job seeker.
Some of this has been tongue-in-cheek, but on a completely serious level, I do think it makes sense for senior executive positions like Vice President, President, and COO to come from outside the industry. My experience managing non-aviation businesses could benefit companies that are used to airline business plans.
To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Some of what challenges companies like Icelandair (or any other, really) are not unique to airlines. Some of the tools that other companies have found to grow and thrive, can be applied to the airline industry.
I think of the late Herb Kelleher, co-founder, long-time CEO, and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines. He was a lawyer prior to starting Southwest Airlines with an oilman and a banker in Dallas as co-founders. They didn’t know anything about the airline industry and found creative ways to solve aviation operational challenges. When asked how he expected to compete with the likes of American Airlines and Braniff, he said that Southwest wasn’t competing with other airlines at all – they were competing with driving.
Analyzing, reframing the problem, and looking for a solution that may be outside of the traditional doctrine is what made Southwest, and Ryanair so successful. The same could be said for JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines too.
With the spirit of Kelleher nudging me forward, I absolutely applied for this high-level position in an industry for which I’ve never worked (but may know a bit about) because I think that what they really need is a candidate who will look at problems and solutions differently than they’ve been viewed in the past.
I do not expect Icelandair to call me to Reykjavík for an interview, though you can rest assured I would go in a heartbeat if they did. But I think there is an important lesson about the industry when they post jobs. Kudos to Icelandair for opening its recruitment outside of the normal channels, but what good will it be to find the best candidates if they can only come from those same channels anyway? At the time of writing, there’s 27 other applicants who applied through LinkedIn, maybe I have a shot.
What do you think? Should airlines, and other travel industry companies, look outside the industry to fill leadership roles? Is this a bad idea? Are you going to apply for yourself?