I was flying on a tiny shuttle plane from DC to Atlanta. We were running 40 minutes late and I only had an hour-long window before a presentation (the sole purpose of the trip.) The pilot announced we were beginning our initial descent into Atlanta.
“Phew!” I thought. I would make the meeting.
Then, an unsettling amount of time later when we were still above clouds, the pilot abruptly announced, “We are being diverted to Huntsville, Alabama.” End of announcement.
Passengers pushed call buttons. One flight attendant hurriedly walked from one end of the plane to another without stopping to talk.
Then, an announcement from the flight attendant: “Passengers, the pilot has asked me to take a vote. Would you rather be diverted to Huntsville or Nashville?” – silence – “Please press your call button if you would prefer Huntsville.” A pause. Two call buttons light up.
What? I look around.
My fellow passengers ruthlessly attack the two flight attendants who were unluckily within earshot. “Is this a prank?” “Are we on TV?” “Never in my life have I heard of such a thing!”
The question I wanted to ask was, “Is the pilot conducting a social experiment in distributed leadership?” I may never know, but if so, his experiment failed for several fairly obvious reasons.