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Airline Without A Pilot - Leadership Lessons/Inside Story of Delta's Success, Decline and Bankruptcy [Paperback]

by Harry L. Nolan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 17, 2005 0977207609 978-0977207602
The no holds barred, inside story of Delta's success, decline and path to bankruptcy...the lessons learned...and what it needs to do to take off again. It gives fresh answers to the often asked question,"What happened to Delta?" This book goes behind the incessant news stories for unique, never before published facts and insights into a classic success story and tragedy. It is based on extensive research, including behind-the-scenes information from 59 members of the "Delta family", the author's in-depth personal knowledge as a member of that family, and his broad experience as a business executive and management consultant. While giving poignant examples from many companies, Delta Air Lines is the book's poster child of a Board of Directors' and a leader's dramatic effects on tens of thousands of people. The book examines the leadership decisions by each of Delta's 7 CEO's and its Board of Directors and then highlights the decisions that built a highly profitable company for decades and those that have brought it to bankruptcy. The book is not the typical trip down 'memory lane', the template of many books about a corporation. Nor is it like the dozens of books today that focus on the airline industry. Instead, it is about leadership. There are profound and valuable lessons in this book for any leader, whatever the future brings for Delta. It guides them to answers to the questions, "What lessons can I learn from Delta to be more successful?" and "What can I learn from Delta to make sure it doesn't happen to my organization?". It is also about a remarkable group of people. As the book shows, Delta employees and retirees have been shining examples of commitment to its heritage - Service and Hospitality From The Heart - even when constrained by ineffective leaders. Part of the tragedy is the price they are now paying and will be paying for that ineffective leadership. The book is co-dedicated to the thousands of Delta employees and retirees who love what Delta once was and hope the current leaders have what it takes to restore it. This book is a fascinating inside look at a major U.S. corporation from both a business and a human perspective.

Frequently Bought Together

Airline Without  A Pilot - Leadership Lessons/Inside Story of Delta's Success, Decline and Bankruptcy + Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits That Plunged the Airlines into Chaos
Price for both: $37.78

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Editorial Reviews


"..refreshingly candid and unrestrained." "..story of human drama and shocking corporate malfeasance." "..advice for working with consultants is particularly astute." -- Bookwire (December, 2005)

From the Publisher

Reader feedback shows that the book appeals strongly to a broad array of readers – including CEOs, executives, business students, and anyone who loves a good story.

Naturally, it appeals to aviation buffs along with all those interested in Delta.

Readers are saying the book engages them quickly and, once involved in the book, they want to continue reading. Many report reading it in one or two sittings; some report getting up in the middle of the night to finish it.

A consistent comment has been that the book will be an excellent case study for use in a graduate business school, undergraduate course or an internal company program on leadership and management.

This book makes a special holiday or other gift for a boss; fellow executive; business student; aviation buff; Delta or other airline employee or retiree; any reader who appreciates a good story in a well-written book.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Targetmark Books (Management Advisory Services) (October 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977207609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977207602
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Aileron
As a current Delta Air Lines captain with many years invested with the company, I want to express my great appreciation for the book Airline Without a Pilot.

I have long maintained that the story of Delta would be a model case study for any business school wanting to demonstrate how NOT to run a business, with a particular emphasis on the difference between "management" and "leadership". The book effectively does this and is "spot on" in so many areas, particularly in the discussion of the management/employee relationship necessary in a service industry. In the military, we used to say, "Take care of your troops, and they'll take care of you."

Sadly, I have learned that all too often this adage does not transfer into the business world. This does seem strange, since everywhere that philosophy is tried, it meets with incredible success. Again, my experience with the "Harvard MBA's" (Leo Mullin, Michelle Burns, et. al.) has been that they merely learned how to transfer company assets into their pockets and then move on. The book also confirmed my negative instincts about many in the "consulting" industry, but the author's common-sense approaches truly bring a breath of fresh air into those discussions.

I was absorbed as I progressed through the book (read in 1 evening), and I could not help but keep repeating to myself, "This guy GETS IT!" The author effectively recorded and discussed so many events that have been churning in my mind (and stomach) for so long, but had thus far evaded public scrutiny. My sincere hope is that this book will effectively shine a very bright light on the real causes for Delta's demise. My only (constructive!) criticism is that I wish that the author had dealt with Mr.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I was an executive at Delta during the pre-bankruptcy era, so I have the benefit of inside knowledge and perspective. Nolan's book is right on target in terms of facts, observations, analysis and recommendations.

However, this is not just a story about another bankrupt airline. Instead, it really is about principal lessons of leadership as a value enhancer or destroyer. These lessons, when properly applied, lead to long-term sustainable growth for the company and secure retirements for employees. When the lessons are ignored or violated, they lead you straight to the bankruptcy court.

Although this book is a fine human interest and business story, it is very unique. The author, Nolan, not only describes how Delta got itself into trouble, but also shows them a way out. He points out that a company's long-term strategic and financial success is dependent on selection of competent business leaders who understand how to plan for the unexpected, leverage and respect the value of human capital and respond to business challenges.

Read this book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The book is an easy read. It is well organized and flows logically. In addition, it has slightly larger type with plenty of white space for improved readability.

The author writes in a style similar to Peter Drucker, one of my favorite business writers. He expresses valuable key management points in a succinct, easy to understand way.

The author brings his vast consulting experience together to very effectively relate to the issues that Delta faced. His perspective is how Delta's leaders - 7 CEOs and their Board - dealt with those issues and the leadership lessons we can all learn from the decisions of those leaders.

From this leadership perspective, he chronicles the company history, starting with C.E. Woolman, founder of Delta and a great leader during the company's early decades. Nolan then graphically shows how the roots and a culture that caused a growing company to flourish and thrive were damaged or abandoned by later leaders, ultimately leading Delta into bankruptcy.

The points made regarding the agenda of some management consultants are right on target. They deserve serious consideration by any CEO, Board or executive.

The book is a valuable, textbook case study in how a great company can go awry when the leaders lose focus and depart from the values and culture that made it great.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is an awesome book. It is easy to read and I could not put it down.

My wife, friends and several of my business associates have also read it. Although each has a different level of business knowledge and interest, it appealed to everyone. We all enjoyed reading it and found it meaningful in different ways.

The book effectively gives important lessons for a company to stay healthy. The author provides unvarnished information and recommendations. He does not gloss over any facts. His straightforward, no-nonsense manner is very refreshing.

As a businessperson, I found the book quite meaningful in many ways - particularly in the well-documented lessons on leadership.

In addition, my wife pointed out that the book is written so that even a non-business person can clearly understand it. For example, her eyes were opened to the job of a Board of Directors and what they are supposed to do in running a company.

This book would make a great gift for a businessperson, a student or anyone who likes a good story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Expose
Very good book that combines leadership lesson with classical case scenario of what brought down a formost airiner. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Banky
4.0 out of 5 stars Airline without a pilot
An excellent book especially for anyone aspiring for a management position in an airline. Mainly note that the culture of an organization stays well past it's founder and when... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Isaac
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly-written ramblings of someone loosely connected...
Although the topic is enthralling, this book is awful. The author is a "consultant" who develops a perspective based on his personal biases and the opinions of various sources who... Read more
Published on November 22, 2011 by BEN C.
2.0 out of 5 stars Adds Nothing New
I spent 30 years at "Daddy Delta". After I retired, I went back to school, for yet another degree, and am now an RN. Read more
Published on October 23, 2011 by dennyv
2.0 out of 5 stars not a book
it looks more like a university dissertation than a book, and even as such i doubt it would ever get a pass,
the book is totaly unreadable, the paragraphs are never more than... Read more
Published on January 25, 2010 by marco
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is a joke
The version of this book that I have 234 but the font is so large that it would be equivalent to 100 maybe 150 pages in a normal book. Read more
Published on November 11, 2009 by E. Morse
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice memoir
This is a great story of turning around a big company, and the resistance encountered at all levels. Enjoyable read for an executive in similar situation.
Published on June 29, 2009 by Rick Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars airline pilot
I gave this to my Dad for christmas and he loved it. He recommends it to others to read.
Published on January 25, 2009 by C.O.G.
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
This book was a gift for my husband who works for Delta. He really enjoyed the book.
Published on January 17, 2008 by J. Pesci
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead On!
What an awesome book. I am a Delta employee with 18+ years and this is the best book I have read regarding my company. Read more
Published on October 21, 2006 by Katharina von Bora
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