20 Quick Fire Questions for… Dr Joe Leader, CEO, APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association) and IFSA (International Flight Services Association)

5 July, 2018

[perfectpullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Dr Joe Leader
Chief Executive Officer
APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association) [/perfectpullquote]

After working in roles in sales and business development for computer hardware and software solutions company AMI: American Megatrends and global storage and semi-conductor company LSI (latterly Avago, but now Broadcom) from 1994 to 2006, Joe took his first aviation role as president of the trade group Air Taxi Association (ATXA), which he launched for the new technology on-demand jet industry. Subsequent roles with West Physics and PossibleNOW followed before he was recruited to launch private jet company BlackJet. He has been CEO of APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association) since 2015.

What is your current job, responsibilities and what three words best describe your role?
CEO of APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association) and IFSA (International Flight Services Association) with a three word description of my role being “airline industry advancement”.

Where do you call home?
Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America (USA).

What does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day involves either engaging our airlines and members via travel or spending time in the office advancing our initiatives working with our amazing APEX / IFSA global team.

What are your main ambitions for the next 12 months in your role?
As a global non-profit for nearly a half-century, APEX and IFSA have advanced so strongly in recent years that we are focusing our efforts on reinvesting in our global events and partnerships. We had an all-time record attendance at our global EXPO in the US with over 5,000 attendees, a new record number of airlines at our APEX Asia regional in China, a sold-out European event, and other new records. Airlines demand a high return on their time investment so we constantly stretch ourselves to support their needs. Key partnerships also are a central component to our DNA and that is why we are closely aligned with CAPA - Centre for Aviation.

What is the biggest obstacle currently influencing the aviation business?
Increasing the speed of innovation remains the largest obstacle in both the airport and airline business. Airports and airlines focus too much energy on “owning” the customer rather than breaking down internal and external silos. Ultimately, the only one that owns the customer is the customer. The successful airport and airline of the future will recognise that by embracing one-to-one marketing in partnerships.

What’s the best and worst career advice you have been given?
Best? came from not getting a job that I really wanted. The President of the company said the week-long HR testing program indicated that I was too strong of a leader to head marketing for the Americas for a global airline corporation. That advice led be to become CMO of an on-demand airline and then CEO of APEX.
Worst? was encouragement over a decade ago to make a big career move without a clear plan. Leaping after developing a game plan is always the best career move.

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If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?
I would switch jobs with Mark Zuckerberg because I believe that Facebook only has reached the 'tip of the iceberg' of its potential. It does a great job connecting people, but should be a stronger positive force in advancing both individuals and society. It would be a much greater force for good as a non-profit like APEX.

What does the aviation business mean to you?
The aviation business means unlimited possibilities to me. We take for granted being able to be anywhere in the world at any time. To that end, the aviation industry means freedom and limitless possibilities for all of us.

What book did you read last?
You will laugh, but I just read Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris. It’s a book about assertive personalities being consistently mindful. My medical doctor wife recommended it to me. I recommend it to others that want to learn to meditate in as little as one minute a day.

What are your three most overused words/phrases?
High dollar problem (good problem to have); win-win (we do a lot of great partnerships); PaxEx (known in aviation as passenger experience).

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?
George Clooney as he’s a decade older and gets my vote from Up in the Air alone

What is your favourite aircraft type (current or old)?
Concorde. It was the best flight experience in my life and I very luckily had an empty seat next to me in both directions.

Window or aisle seat and why?
Aisle normally for ease of access for my items, but window when flying into a new place for the view below.

Favourite flying tip?
Always be nice to airline staff members. Behaving badly never works out well for you or them.

Favourite travel spot? Or where would you like to go on a dream vacation?
Antarctica was our favourite lifetime vacation. My dream vacation would be to the Maldives and we will get there soon.

Which four individuals, living or dead, would you like to eat dinner with the most?
Margret Thatcher, as an unexpected leader that overcame all obstacles; Alexander Hamilton, as I am a student of economics; Amelia Earhart, as we are related in more ways than one; Bill Clinton, as a dinner would be valued even though we met in Arkansas when he was my governor.

What do you do to relax?
Travel with my family relaxes me incredibly.

What keeps you awake at night?
I normally sleep quite well, but when I do not it is because my mind is non-stop. It will create a three-dimensional chess board of every option and possibility on nights that I have difficulty falling asleep.

What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?
I am a modern-day Jedi ;-)

People would be surprised if they knew?
I got into aviation because two decades ago I became the most frequent flyer for a US airline, they assigned me the frequent flyer #1. I made the industry move because they warmly accepted every passenger-centric suggestion that I made.

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