On Leadership, Soaring and Embracing the Power of Belief


A while back I was in Oshkosh, WI attending the 2012 AirVenture event, a week-long airshow and exposition of experimental aircraft, homebuilts, and generally everything aviation for the civilian aviation enthusiast.

It’s quite a show that attracts aviation enthusiasts from all over the world. In my previous post, we explored beliefs and how they impact our perspective. Today, let’s continue that thread by looking at the idea of strong beliefs and how important they are for success. 

The Early Belief in Aviation

Aviation as we know it began with the Wright brothers – bicycle shop mechanics and inventors who believed they could fly. They kept at it until they proved they could. Another name heard often here at AirVenture is Dick Rutan, the former Air Force fighter pilot who in 1986 along with his co-pilot, Jeana Yeager, made the first ever non-stop, unfueled flight around the word.

And yes, their “Voyager”, was one of a kind experimental aircraft designed by Dick, his brother Burt, and Jeana.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”

Here at Oshkosh, as I look at rows upon row of literally hundreds of beautiful flying machines constructed by the pilots who flew them to Oshkosh, I am impressed again with the power of belief and, of course, hard work. They tend to be partners to success in life.

The saying, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right” may have been first coined by Abraham Lincoln, but it’s most often attributed to Henry Ford. Regardless, it seems to bear much truth.

Witnessing Belief and Confidence

As an instructor pilot, I trained many students right out of college to fly supersonic jet aircraft. Most made it through the course and a few washed out. The one common characteristic was the degree to which they believed they could succeed. It takes a great deal of confidence to fly at 500 miles an hour with three feet of wingtip spacing on your leader.

Not only does it take a great deal of skill, but without confidence you will never be able to perform consistently.

I often told my students, “I can see you have the talent to do this and I’m confident that I can teach you. But for it to work, you must picture it in your mind and you must believe that you can do it.”

And predictably, most of those who didn’t make it were those who just couldn’t believe they could do it.

So what about you (and me)? What is it that we’re struggling with right now that we have the capability to do, but just aren’t sure if we have what it takes? Quite often when we lack confidence we also lack passion; they seem to go together. What’s motivating you to want to achieve a goal or make a change in your life? Can you picture yourself succeeding? Do you really believe down deep it can happen? If the answer is “yes I can”, then you probably can. 

These are my thoughts, but the Leading with Honor community would love to hear from you. Many of you can speak to this issue of believing (confidence) and we’d all benefit from hearing your thoughts.


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Lee Ellis is the Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in team building, executive development & assessments
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His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Sources: thedigitalaviator.com

L2L Contributing Author


  1. ramakrishnan6002 on January 19, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Reblogged this on Gr8fullsoul.

  2. Jagoda Perich-Anderson, M.A.J on January 20, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    The power of belief is indeed a critical success factor especially when coupled with commitment to persevere against the odds. So is the power of synergistic collaboration, even across distance and time which is the fuller story of aviation. I work with aviation leaders at Boeing Commercial Airplanes and was enlightened to learn that the Wright Brothers were not the first to test flying machines. For example, German engineer Otto Lilienthal was the first to design and fly a glider in 1891. Langley and Chanute were two others who heavily influenced the Wright Brothers.

    • Lee Ellis on January 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Great points, Jagoda. Even though we don’t often hear about Otto Lilienthal, his strong power of belief in the principles of flight influenced the Wright Brothers (and others) in ways that he never could conceive. Thanks for sharing, and best to you in your day-to-day leadership. (WP Admin)

  3. Antonio Simancas on January 20, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Network of thought.

  4. ENNA A. BACHELOR on January 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm