In the Spotlight: Michael Audino

Michael Audino is one of the instructors for Eno’s new Airline Leadership Development Program (ALDP). He also serves as a Senior Researcher at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida, where he leads research and education initiatives for a variety of airports and public transit clients. He is a specialist in developing strategic and operational plans, designing communications and public outreach strategies, and applied organizational research.

Prior to joining CUTR, Michael served as the State Aviation Officer for the Iowa Department of Transportation, Executive Director of the Southwest Iowa Planning Council, and Director of Marketing and Business Development for the Des Moines International Airport. He holds a Masters in Business Leadership from Upper Iowa University and a Bachelors in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University. He serves as an ambassador for the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), and has served on multiple ACRP project panels.

What initially drew you to transportation? What has kept you in this field?

When I was in sixth grade in Mason City, Iowa, I remember visiting an engineering firm. Seeing the work they were doing, I was hooked. I wanted to build bridges – big ones. From that point on it was my goal! That is, until I enrolled in the Civil Engineering program at Iowa State University. After about six months in that program I realized that my real passion was in planning and I transitioned over to the Community and Regional Planning program.

I’ve remained in transportation over the years because I’ve realized that in order for an economy to thrive and in order for people to more fully live their lives, they have to have the ability to get from point A to point B safely and efficiently. Helping give this ability to people, particularly those less fortunate, has consistently been the most rewarding aspect of my job over the course of my career, and has kept me in transportation this whole time.

In your early career, what would you identify as the most important thing that you learned? That you have carried with you to this day?

I would say it comes down to a very simple formula. Know what you’re doing – have the technical competency to get the job done. Be a nice person while getting the job done – this is critically important. And finally, get moving and do something – far too many smart people talk an excellent game, but aren’t willing to roll their sleeves up and do the actual work when it comes down to brass tacks.

You spent some time working at the Des Moines International Airport. What did that teach you about the aviation industry?

I learned a great deal during my time with the Des Moines International Airport (DSM). One of the primary take-aways was a clearer understanding and recognition that the airline industry is ripe with risk – more specifically, the airlines, like every other publicly owned company, have a responsibility to the shareholders to make money. I had never really thought about the industry that way before.

The DSM experience also reinforced the importance of understanding what the customer wants. Not every customer wants the same thing, and my job was to do my best to ensure that as many customers as possible were getting a product that they wanted. And in the world of airports – whether commercial service or general aviation – there are a lot of different customers with a wide variety of needs.   An analogy I like to use is comparing an airport to a shopping mall – The stores and restaurants in the mall are actually customers of the mall owner.  The same thing applies to airports – the airlines, concessionaires, fixed-base operators and other tenants – are customers of the airport. The role of airport owners and leaders is to help ensure the needs of their tenants are satisfied such that the goals of both the airport and the tenant are satisfied.

This is something that many people don’t realize. You have to do your best to keep all of your customers satisfied.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working for the aviation industry?

I don’t know if it’s specific to the aviation industry, but my career in transportation has provided me numerous opportunities to use my God-given talents to hopefully contribute to the greater good as it relates to the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. Few things are more rewarding than helping people by doing the thing you love.

What skills do you believe are invaluable to airport managers?

I would say it depends on the size of the airport. If you are working for a larger airport, then you will most likely have people working for you whose job it is to take care of the more technical aspects (operations, planning, maintenance, etc.). In this case, the airport manager’s role is to focus more on leadership, communicating the vision and mission of the airport, improving communication throughout the entire organization, ensuring employees have the tools they need to perform their job, critical thinking, and creating a culture that facilitates a high performing airport operation.

Now if you’re working at a smaller airport it’s a bit different. The leadership skills I mentioned before are still very important, but the airport manager is also responsible for the nuts and bolts of airport operations. The manager of a smaller airport most likely has far fewer people working for them, so their technical knowledge is invaluable.

When did you first become exposed to leadership training? How was it put to use in your career?

I would say I didn’t realize the value of leadership training until I joined the Iowa DOT in 1989. They provided us with a number of different continuing education programs, including those concerning leadership skills. During my time there, I realized just how important those skills are to a successful career. Not everyone behaves like I do, and in order to get the job done, I needed to learn about my colleagues and myself. Once I had a better grasp on myself and had the skills to better understand my colleagues, I found that we were a much more cohesive unit.

These skills have become staples of my day-to-day life; however just in the last few years they have become a very large part of my career with the creation of the Airport Leadership Development Program (ALDP).

What is your favorite part of teaching leadership classes?

Without question, it is the excitement and positive feedback I experience from individuals who participate. I get to help people blossom and become what they are capable of being. It’s an incredibly rewarding job.

Also, our curriculum can be applied across modes. Participants can transfer the knowledge and skills they gain from our class to different modes of transportation and even into different fields. It’s exciting to help people grow, both personally and professionally. We’ll oftentimes hear from class participants six months down the road, and it is amazing to hear what they’ve accomplished. They continually prove to me that leadership is a journey, not a destination.

A last word

I like to differentiate choice-based from chance-based destiny.  You don’t have to accept life the way it’s given to you. Each of us has the ability – and I would argue the responsibility – to maximize our God-given talents and pursue our dreams.

As I advise our leadership class participants – the best way to predict your future is to create it.

Eno’s Airport Leadership Development Program will be held in late 2015. For more information and to sign up for the ALDP interest list, email Alex Bond at 

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