About flying and leading: It’s all about the team

When you are racing at a speed of 400 km/h, there is no time to second-guess your decisions. As a pilot, I have to implement with one hundred percent accuracy the plans I have previously worked out as a team leader together with my crew. In this context, we need absolute concentration, a flow of new ideas, and unconditional trust.

Success has a short half-life. In the moments of victory, the moments of celebration, success is already a thing of the past and we are setting our sights on the next goal. All the same, our moments of success are a cause for celebration. That is the attitude I take toward my sport as an Air Race pilot, and I motivate my team and myself anew every single day.

As a CEO, a team leader, and a pilot, I always want to win and live up to my claim to leadership. In the process, I am guided by the same principles as the employees of Daimler AG — the Leadership Principles of the Leadership 2020 initiative, with which I identify myself to one hundred percent. That is why I am proud to be a brand ambassador of Daimler AG.

Born to fly

All it needs to make me happy is an engine and a body shell, whether it is a car, a boat or a plane. I have spent my whole life in hangars, on airfields, and in cockpits. Flying has been my passion and my inspiration from the very start. I live to fly and fly to live.

Expanding the limits — in the air and on the ground (image: (c) Anja Behrens). Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+; Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 11,3 l/100 km, CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 257 g/km.

I developed my love of competition very early on. At a certain point I noticed that I could participate successfully because I was always the youngest person competing, as well as being one of the best. So I faced an important decision: Should I give up the profession I had learned, industrial management, and instead pursue a career as a professional sportsman?

I realized early on that I can be successful only if I go my own way. Everyone has an individual strong point, and you have to leave your comfort zone in order to make your dream come true. So I listened to my inner voice and decided to become a sportsman. I made success my top priority, and in 2016 I became the first German World Champion in the Red Bull Air Race.

Goal achieved, dream realized: Red Bull Air Race World Champion 2016 (image (c): Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull Content Pool).

An Air Race requires a high degree of precision and concentration, as well as the ability to visualize. Even before the start of the race, I have my precise ideal line for the upcoming flight in my head, and I mentally rehearse it countless times. During the run, in my thoughts I am a few hundred meters ahead of my actual position on the course, but I am nonetheless present in the here and now.

I am acting and reacting simultaneously. During the flight I have to systematically implement all of the decisions I have made previously about my ideal line, speed, and maneuvers, without questioning these decisions. I like to compare this approach with the concept of parking a car in a garage at a speed of 400 km/h.

Fully focused on what counts (image (c): Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull Content Pool).

Winning together, losing together

I bear the responsibility for my entire team and my partners. Every flight course is different, and the external circumstances are different on every single day of the race week. The wind, the temperature, and the density altitude all have a huge impact on the flight characteristics. Together with my crew, I have to adapt to the prevailing conditions in fractions of a second. Through my performance I have to implement the plans that my team has worked hard to create. Talent alone is not enough. The only way to reach your ambitious goal is to have absolute commitment, train hard, and fight every day against the temptation to be lazy.

On the way to the top, we have to be capable of learning — and we have to stay that way. Learning creates the foundation that enables us to adapt to new situations quickly and make the right decisions under pressure. For me and my team, every challenge is an opportunity to continue improving. And if things sometimes do not work as planned, internal communication is crucial. Human problems have various causes, and only open and honest communication can help us find them and correct them.

As a team, we can achieve everything we strive for (image (c): Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull Content Pool).

I am a member of my team not only in my role as a pilot. As the leader of the team, I also set the pace and set an example to my crew of the values needed in order to reach maximum success. These values include a pioneering spirit, a hunger for victory, curiosity, and the will to question old patterns and do new things. We stand together as a team, and we win and lose together. Only if you never stop to rest on your laurels, if you continue working on yourself in spite of your success, and if you learn lessons from your failures, you can take on a leadership role.

Nobody can do everything, but everyone has his or her own talents. If you are a member of a strong team, these talents join forces. Everyone — the mechanic, the planner, the communicator — contributes his or her own knowledge and experiences in order to strengthen the team. The key element is trust: Only if you have trust, you can create space for creativity and coax the best performance out of your team. Striving to reach a shared goal is the lowest common denominator that welds a team together.

Leaving nothing to chance: It is ultimately the details that decide (image (c): Christof Kreutzer).

Sharing experiences within the team opens new horizons. I need this input in order to improve myself and my team. I also talk a lot with my colleagues and competitors, and I use the insights I gain to regularly review my own conduct and continue to improve it. Because of the global racing scene, I am always dealing with foreign cultures. That way, I gain a different perspective on things, which would have been impossible if I had stayed at home on Lake Constance in Germany.

Expanding horizons, experiencing new points of view (image (c): Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull Content Pool).

Standing still is regression

My partnership with Daimler AG is a huge opportunity to engage in dialogue with other celebrities when I am not practicing my own sport, such as entrepreneurs, artists, and of course other athletes. It also gives me a chance to expand my horizons.

Besides, my job enables me to take unconventional approaches, test my limits, and gain a different perspective on the world from my cockpit. I would like to share these experiences with employees and partners of Daimler AG, and I look forward to our continuing dialogue.

Expanding my horizons: A fencing duel with the Olympic champion Britta Heidemann. Touché! (image (c): Isa Foltin / Getty Images); Fahrzeug: Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL; Wasserstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 0,34 kg/100 km, CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km, Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 13,7 kWh/100 km)1

For me, a special highlight was the “Berliner Salon – Club der Jungen Wilden,” where I met unique personalities such as the Olympic fencing champion, Britta Heidemann. It was a happy reunion, because we had flown together in the past.

I was also able to experience the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL (Wasserstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 0,34 kg/100 km, CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km, Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 13,7 kWh/100 km)1 up close. It is an electric vehicle whose unique combination with a fuel cell exemplifies the things that I love about life and my profession: questioning old patterns, trying things out, and discovering new things. Standing still is regression. The next goal is always the biggest one.


(c) Teaser image: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

1 Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, Stromverbrauch und CO2-Emissionen sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe des WLTP-Prüfverfahrens ermittelt und in NEFZ-Werte korreliert. Die EG-Typgenehmigung und eine Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.

Matthias Dolderer is an aerobatic pilot and the first German World Champion in the world’s fastest motorsports race series. He has already spent more than 300 days in the cockpit and flown over 100 different kinds of aircraft.