Senior Leader Profile: Bob Gleason

Bob Pic-edit
Compass Airlines Chief Operating Officer, Robert (Bob) Gleason

Compass COO Bob Gleason has been in the aviation industry for nearly 40 years, and has a long and diverse resume to show for it. As Chief Operating Officer of Compass Airlines, Bob leads a team of over 2,000 employees and has operational oversight over every aspect of the airline’s performance. Our team had a moment to sit with Bob to learn more about his leadership style, his experiences, and powerful books he recommends for current and aspiring aviation professionals. Read what Bob had to share below:

Bob, can you tell us about your role as COO of Compass Airlines?

Compass is a premiere regional airline operating on behalf of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. We serve over 6.5 million passengers a year and operate more than 240 flights a day. My role is to ensure that our operations run smoothly.

What made you want to pursue a career in aviation?

My Dad was a significant role model in my life and motivated my desire to pursue Aviation. He worked at TWA as a mechanic. When I was a child, we would go to watch planes like the Flying Tigers. His passion and commitment peaked my interest into the airline business. Throughout my career, I’ve spent over 30 years with Northwest Airlines, holding progressively responsible senior leadership positions in the areas of Maintenance, Quality, Tech Ops, and Safety. When Northwest merged with Delta Air Lines, I became a senior contractor for Delta, handling parts integration for the Delta and Northwest fleets. During my tenure at Delta, I went on to hold the positions of Chief Inspector and Director of Quality. Now, as the COO at Compass I’m enjoy leading the finest group of aviation professionals each day.

What are the most important decisions that you face daily as a leader within Compass?

Some of the larger decisions that we face today revolve around pilot recruiting. As a regional pathway airline, we send a significant number of pilots to major airlines. The need to attract qualified pilots regularly keeps signing bonuses, and compensation decisions on the table. Other important daily considerations include our return on investment across platforms, recruiting maintenance professionals, and continued overall performance excellence for our partners.

How do you maintain your team’s daily motivation and inspiration despite obstacles?

I live by the quote that says “Tell the truth, and tell me early!” We have open and honest weekly meetings where I review daily operations and listen to understand the many factors that impact our flight schedules. Weather for example can be a challenge to navigate at times, but I’m very conscious at making sure everyone knows where we are operationally, and where we stand among the competition. I like to be number one, and with one of our partners we are consistently leading the pack. When we all work together to produce stellar results, it reflects well on everyone.

How would you describe the Compass culture to a new employee?

At Compass we are safe, we take care of our customers, and last but not least, we have fun! Our staff and crews look forward to coming to work. We work hard, so I always look for a reason to celebrate. If we set a record, I make sure that we celebrate.

What books have you read that left a lasting impact on your leadership and/or life in aviation?

If you visit my office you’ll see one of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln that says “ Be Strong. Always choose truth over popularity.” A few of my favorite reads include Lincoln by David Herbert Donald, Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch, and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. While these books aren’t aviation specific, they have lots of lessons that could be implemented into the type of work we do each day.

“If you visit our company headquarters in MSP, please stop by! My office is open. I encourage our teams to speak up and share their opinion. I have an open door, so feel free to pop in with a cup of coffee,” Bob said.

For more information on Compass Airlines, visit