This is an excerpt from Finding Mastery #098 with Boeing Vice Chairman Ray Conner in which he shares the number one factor he looks for in a leader.


Ray Conner: One of the most important things in my mind is, do you have the courage to be accountable?

Michael Gervais: How do you suss that out in people?

Ray Conner: Ohhh you can find that one really fast. When things aren’t going right, the leader is standing tall and taking the heat for what has gone wrong. It’s like when you watch a coach and they don’t throw anybody under the bus. They stand up, they take the…

Michael Gervais: So you can’t learn that in an interview, you have to watch that for some time?

Ray Conner: You’ve got to watch that. So the DNA I’m looking for and the DNA that I think has built this company to be a great company is courage.

Courage is the courage to go do great things, to take those kinds of risks, to be able to really be out there sometimes when others may think that that might be a little bit crazy. But also the courage to take responsibility and to be accountable.

I’ll give an example.

We grounded an airplane because of this battery. Now the battery was built by a supplier. I could’ve stood up there and said it’s the suppliers fault (it was) but I never did that.

I said this is our airplane, it’s our responsibility, and we’re going to get it fixed. [It comes down to] having the integrity to be accountable and do the right thing – always do the right thing.

Sometimes doing the right thing is the toughest thing. And that’s what I look for in a leader. 


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Ray Conner is vice chairman of The Boeing Company and a member of the Boeing Executive Council. In addition to his role as vice chairman, Conner served as president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) until November 2016 when he announced his intention to retire at the end of 2017.