Be Like Humble Servant, Captain Terry!

One of our favorite stories ever. Enjoy, share! John and Kristin

servant, servant leadership, leadership, qbq, accountability I arrived at the Cleveland airport for my flight feeling dread. I had to get to Portland, Oregon that night, and I was taking the last flight west. On top of that, I had to connect through the always chaotic O’Hare International Airport. We pulled away from the gate on time, but then a “ground hold” happened. Going nowhere, my worry meter kicked in. Meanwhile, I was sitting next to a United Airlines pilot — Captain Terry Callaghan — who was catching a ride to O’Hare to pilot a flight to Germany. Airline pilots operate in a hierarchical, seniority-based system, and only the most senior pilots fly the foreign routes. Add that to his captain’s hat and distinguished gray hair, and I knew he was an experienced professional. He was able to explain the reasons behind our delay, which helped a little, but I still needed to be in Portland that night — and we were losing precious minutes fast. We finally took off …
I figured if we landed at 7:15 p.m., I could still make my 7:45 flight west. We did land at 7:15, but then we began an endless taxi to the gate. Captain Terry, seeing my concern, asked me a good question: “Did you check your luggage through or give it up at plane side?” “Plane side,” I answered despondently. We both knew I was at the mercy of how fast the baggage handlers brought the bags up to the jetway. It was now 7:30 and . . . Captain Terry to the rescue! “You know, John, I could wait for your bag while you dash to your flight,” he said. “Then I’ll bring it down to your gate. If you’re gone, I’ll get it on the first morning flight to Portland for you.” “Um, really? Wow!” I started to believe I’d make it — especially since we’d now arrived at the gate. But then the flight attendants wouldn’t let us off due to a six-inch gap between the jetway bridge and the plane door. So there we all stood, staring at a half-foot gap that might as well have been a half-mile wide. Finally, we were released at 7:34. I had eleven minutes. Terry cheered, “You can do it, John!” I ran. I made it. Whew! Minutes later, sitting in my new seat, I noticed a flight attendant pointing at me. Then I saw Captain Terry — with his captain’s hat perched atop his head and an ear-to-ear smile — strutting down the aisle to deliver my bag to me! I was certain the other passengers were murmuring, “Who is this passenger who has his luggage personally delivered by a captain? Is he a celebrity?” So I let them all think I’m famous, though, of course, I’m not. I’m just a guy who sat next to a man willing to serve others. Captain Terry Callaghan has reached the pinnacle of his profession, where the captain could be called The Supreme Commander, The Head Honcho, or The Big Cheese. He is the final authority — on everything. People in positions like these often exude self-importance, bordering on arrogance. Instead, Captain Terry is a role model for … me. You see, I want to be more like Captain Terry. How ’bout you? Comments welcome!

Excerpted from Outstanding! 47 Ways To Make Your Organization Exceptional

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8 Responses

  1. This is a GREAT story. We all should be like Captain Terry – breaking the stronghold and reputation whereas “people in positions like these often exude self-importance, bordering on arrogance.”

    Having a servant’s heart goes a whole lot further and is a whole lot more appreciated than the title!

  2. This is a GREAT story! I want to not only be “like” Captain Terry, I want to emulate him through and through!!

    I do have a question – what is the difference between checking “baggage through or plane side” and what do each mean? I have almost always carried on, and occasionally check at the counter, so I don’t understand what these 2 concepts mean and why plane side is a problem.

    Thanks, as always, for your great stories and fantastic personal accountability ideas!

    1. Thanks, Ms. Miller!

      On smaller planes where wheelies don’t fit above or below the seat, you leave it outside the plane door and the handlers take it. Then, when you land, they bring it back to you there. So you have to … wait. 🙁

      Glad you enjoyed the story!

  3. Your communications with excerpts from your books never cease to make me feel good. I read them when they are needed versus right when they hit the in box. They have never failed to brighten a day. Thank you for what you do.

  4. Oh my goodness! I love this story! I would definitely like to be more like Captain Terry! What a fun story and what a great guy! Thank you for sharing! That is convicting and encouraging.

  5. I definitely want to be like Captain Terry. Sadly my boss is so afraid of people who are like Captain Terry. But that doesn’t mean I am going to change and be be someone who I am not meant to be. I have to be true to who I am.

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