Business travel can be a beast. Packing light, so you don’t have to check-in baggage. Eying airport walls for charging stations or electric plugs. Assessing the speed of each of the security lines before choosing one. Using any means necessary – be it loyalty programs, cashing in extra miles, or chatting up the gate attendant – to get a ideal plane seat.

We’ve all be there, right?

Because of my type of consulting practice, I have to travel across the globe, to where my clients are in the trenches every day striving to become stronger leaders who keep their companies competitive. Business travel is a critical component to my firm’s growth model.

For those of us who live in airports and have been forced to become travel connoisseurs, you’ll appreciate this real-life case study of why inspiring differentiated leadership within your organization is so powerful. (Differentiated leadership is the ability to use your distinguishing value to lead, guide or influence others to a course of action.)



Delta Airlines recently unveiled a new class of seat which will be first offered on international flights in late 2017. It will be called “premium economy”, which offers more space, power ports, and faster check-in service. The company says the premium economy seats also come with more leg room, a pre-departure beverage service, an in-flight blanket, an amenity kit, accelerated security screening, and expedited baggage service.

Although Delta has not released the price range for these seats, it is easy to guess that a price point between the current economy pricing and business elite pricing will be ideal for a particular segment of the traveling market.


This is how Delta followed the principles of The E.P.I.C. Method to inspire the type of differentiated leadership which supports the building of an even stronger leadership brand:

Step 1: Establish Relevance – Establishing Relevance involves pinpointing the intersection of both your and your key stakeholders’ most urgent priorities. Although Delta is not the first airline to offer a premium economy offering, they are the first to have this particular mix of perks. Delta needed additional options for revenue growth and customer loyalty. A segment of its customers were willing to pay a little extra for more convenience and comfort. Delta did a great job finding the intersection of both their and their customers’ most urgent priorities, by listening and responding to exactly what customers who indicated they were willing to pay a bit more for the convenience said they wanted.

Step 2: Position Possibilities – Positioning Possibilities involves presenting compelling, win-win options from which to choose. Delta’s extensive research resulted in a long wish-list from customers of perks they wanted to see included in the premium-economy offering. Delta did a great job selecting the highest valued options and creating strong marketing and branding on how these perks would make a traveler’s experience more enjoyable.

Step 3: Implement Disruption– Implementing Disruption involves executing selected options with a “wow” factor that goes viral. Now, this is where the rubber meets the road and where Delta will have to prove the value in 2017. However, they are not waiting until then to get folks like me talking. They are pre-marketing the value now via showing models of the seats and evangelizing the experience. If they succeed- their revenue will skyrocket. If they fail – their R&D investment is lost.

Step 4: Confirm “The Next”– Confirm “The Next” involves planning for and agreeing on what is next on the horizon. No company or leader can rest on their laurels. They have to be in a continuous innovation and improvement mindset in order to stay competitive. Delta will be closely evaluating the premium economy roll-out and will use the data to verify what they should offer next to the customers. I, for one, can’t wait to see!


food-for-thoughtFood for Thought: Although Delta will likely benefit from this innovation, it is important to remember that individual employees drove the thought leadership and execution. These are the unsung heroes who inspired the differentiated leadership which will help to solidify Delta’s reputation as a strong leadership brand in the airlines industry.

Think about how inspiring differentiated leadership in your organization can both excite your staff and delight you, as you significantly impact your bottom-line business metrics and growth!  Chat with us about bringing our signature assessment and workshop to your team.

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