Mentors, Passion and Purpose

11 Nov 2022

Mentors, Passion and Purpose – Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines shares his insights into leadership during times of crisis

The Liveris Academy and UQ’s Bloom Festival recently hosted a Distinguished Speaker breakfast event with Mr Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines. Liveris Academy Scholars had the privilege of asking Mr Bastian questions which included talking about leadership.

Prompted by questions from Liveris Scholars Aditya Neurgaonkar and Adeleine Watson regarding finding clarity and strategies during times of crisis, Mr Bastian advised that to be an effective leader you need to be able to define yourself, and even more so in times of crisis. Having been through 9/11 and Covid during his tenure at Delta he said he regularly shared with his team that it is imperative to stay close to your people, remember your purpose and most importantly to be honest. He advised not to be afraid to be vulnerable, and always be willing to ask for help or reach out to mentors.

Mr Bastian said that while most people believe mentoring relationships are most important at the start of a career, he has found that his mentors have only become more critical as a source of support and advice as he gained greater responsibility and taken on more challenges later in his career. He said a valuable lesson was to seek mentors from a variety of industries and be prepared to learn from your own staff. Mr Bastian said that when focusing on delivering results you can sometimes forget that you should always be learning, and that the day he stops learning is the day that he will “hang up my spurs and go home.”

When asked about career direction, a key takeaway from the CEO was when choosing a workplace, follow what you are passionate about and “work for a company that moves your heart”. He urged the audience not to be swayed by money as it can lead to a lot of false promise. Mr Bastian’s advice on career advancement was “to surround yourself with like-minded people who share that ambition is really, important. Go learn and bring new ideas, innovation and advancements forward.”

Mr Bastian also encouraged the audience to put themselves in uncomfortable positions to progress. He said that travel is one of the most enriching educational experiences and that to meet people with different life experiences was the best way to really grow oneself. 

A final note from Mr Bastian was “I also say that when you continue to advance, don't forget the people that got you to where you are. Don't forget, it's the people that believed in you early on, so don't lose sight of that.”