Why future-focused leadership is key to business success

Irrespective of the prevailing market conditions, investing and building a community within your business can pay dividends in the long term, says Maria Della Posta, President of Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Maria Della PostaMaria Della Posta

It’s fair to say that it’s easier for a company to be innovative when it has the safety net and security afforded by decades of success. But Maria Della Posta, President of aviation manufacturers Pratt & Whitney Canada, says that having a future-focused drive is what creates a strong foundation in the first place.

“Something I think is inherent to our philosophy and the way we approach the future is this notion of, even when things are good, looking at what’s next,” Della Posta says.

“There’s always been this notion of a growth mindset. We just continue to grow and take the learnings from one market and apply it to the next. That’s not only become a strength, but also a competitive advantage.”

This ethos has paid off for the Pratt & Whitney Group. The company is approaching its centenary as a world leader in the design and manufacture of aircraft engines and auxiliary power units, with plans that will support its success for the next 100 years.

Even when the industry has faced enormous challenges and downturns, the company has continued to look beyond current issues and plan ahead for a positive future.

“Good years or bad, we’ve invested upward of CAD$500 million [US$374 million] a year in Pratt & Whitney Canada – and elsewhere in the world,” Della Posta says. “That’s a cornerstone of our go-forward strategy.” And one that’s really paid off.

In 2023, the company will celebrate one billion flying hours, 500 million of which will have been powered by its renowned PT6 engine – the most prevalent and versatile engine in aviation for 60 years.

As this milestone is celebrated with the vast global community of PT6 enthusiasts, it’s proof positive that careful investment in smarter technology leads to state-of-the-art manufacturing, greater operating efficiencies and breakthroughs in performance, control systems and data intelligence.

Recognizing talent

Maria Della PostaMaria Della Posta

An engine undergoes an assembly line inspection at Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Joining the company in 1985, when she was fresh out of university, Della Posta says the can-do attitude of her contemporaries was something that attracted her to the company. She believes it’s still pulling in talent to drive the company forward.

“One of our long-standing people said it best when I asked, ‘Why would someone come to work here over Google, Amazon or all the more recent businesses?’ He told me, ‘Oh, Maria, the people own this place.’ I think that is what resonates with me the most.”

“I’ve been able to touch every part of the business – from customer service, to procurement, to having the honor of leading this great team.”

The fact that Della Posta has chosen to stay working at Pratt & Whitney Canada for so long is not due to complacency – far from it. The company has always realized the power of talent retention, which has kept her as excited and enthusiastic as when she first joined.

She’s been able to work across many departments over her 30-plus years there, and she believes this has informed her leadership style and given her crucial insights.

“I’ve been able to touch every part of the business – from customer service, to procurement, to having the honor of leading this great team,” she says. “And in every area, excellence was expected and encouraged.”

Community creates continuity

Della Posta reflects on how expecting the best was done in an environment of nurturing and with that all-important growth mindset.

“I’ve had the benefit of the promotion of inclusion and talent development here – well before it was fashionable to talk about these things. Over the past 38 years, I’ve worked for leaders who’ve always made it a point,” she says.

“They were fiercely focused on talent development and bringing the best. The ability to have different views is critical.”

And as a leader now, this is a message and culture Della Posta is committed to continuing.

“In my current position, I’m uniquely placed to promote women in our industry – and I’m proud to do so. I’m proud to say we have really great role models on my team and throughout every part of the business. That culture of empowerment and transparency has been critical.”

“I’ve had the benefit of the promotion of inclusion and talent development here – well before it was fashionable to talk about these things.”

She’s also thankful for the strong sense of community within the business. “I think of the people who helped me along the way, drew pictures for me, did all kinds of things to bring me along,” she says.

“That strong culture of community and esprit de corps is something that resonates with me, but it’s also something that our customers note and talk to us about.”

As well as helping the company through the demands of the past three years, when COVID-19 restrictions wreaked havoc upon the aviation trade, the community ethos Pratt & Whitney Canada supported and allowed to flourish pushed the company forward with new product developments.

But Della Posta doesn’t underestimate the pressure her colleagues have been under.

“Yes, we have a great culture. And yes, we have a great team. But I think it’s important to recognize that people are strained on many different levels,” she explains.

The care and safety measures Pratt & Whitney Canada put into their engines is reflected in their treatment of staff.

“We have a strong culture of community, and people have realized how important it is to look after one another. Looking after our people is front and center for me right now, because I know that’s how we’re going to meet the great challenges and opportunities of the future.”

With this ethos and foundation, the future looks bright for Pratt & Whitney Canada.

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