Meet Mike

A Leader Who Understands Why Stakeholders Are Our Greatest Assets … in Good Times and Bad

Organizational Crisis: Not IF, But WHEN

Even the greatest organizations suffer great disasters. Crises, scandals, and operational disruptions have become increasingly common in today’s fast-moving, constantly evolving business environment. The world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), and leaders at every level must be prepared for the unexpected. The question isn’t if you will face a crisis, but rather when.

“High-stakes leadership is about leading in times of crisis — when the interests of many are threatened, when the potential for significant loss is great, when there is no clear path to resolution, and when the need for leadership is greatest.”

Mike Barger
Renowned Expert on High-Stakes Leadership


Learn From Experience

Throughout his military, corporate, and academic careers, Mike Barger has helped tens of thousands of leaders (and hundreds of organizations) prepare for the unexpected. He’s walked in their shoes, stood by their sides, and taught them how to lead when the going gets tough. He has supported executives at the highest levels, groups and individuals seeking to grow professionally, and entire organizations committed to delivering on the value propositions of their stakeholders. Mike offers customized corporate learning solutions, is frequently engaged for speaking engagements, and delivers self-paced educational programs to support the needs of leaders across the nation and around the world.

Military & Commercial Aviator | Airline Founder | Crisis Leadership Expert | Transformational Leader

Mike Barger is an acclaimed author, speaker, educator, consultant, and commentator on the complex nature of crisis leadership. With more than 30 years of experience in hands-on and up-close crisis management, Mike is ideally suited to teach, support, and inspire current and future leaders who dare to stand up and take responsibility for organizations, employee groups, customers, and entire industries … in good times and bad.

Mike Barger knows what matters when the stakes are high — how to behave, what to say, what kinds of teams to assemble, and how to juggle the complex (and often conflicting) expectations of key stakeholders. He has “been there and done that” … in fighter planes over war zones as a TOPGUN aviator, in the corporate C-suite of one of America’s fastest-growing companies, and in the lecture halls of academia. The environments in which Mike Barger has grappled with the realities of leading under immense pressure formed a collective crucible from which he emerged battle-tested and prepared to teach others how to prepare for (and perform during) the most trying of times.

“The purpose of leadership is the ability to understand, appreciate, and respond to the needs of those who depend on or could benefit from actions that you could take with their interests in mind — actions that you could take that would benefit others.”

Mike Barger
Renowned Expert on High-Stakes Leadership

Born to Fly, Teach, and Lead

Today, you’ll find Dr. Mike Barger in the classroom or in front of the virtual-classroom camera in his “day job” role as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration and Executive Director, Ross Online, at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. In his faculty capacity, he leads courses in entrepreneurship, early-stage business development, and leadership during organizational crisis. In his staff role, he facilitates the design and execution of the School’s digital education initiatives and oversees the operation of Ross Online.

But long before Mike was a university educator, he was teaching and inspiring in unlikely places — like the skies over Kosovo, airline training facilities in the US, and online spaces for corporations committed to continuing education for their employees. Mike was born to fly, to teach, and to lead.

Mike Barger grew up in Howell, Michigan, just north of Ann Arbor, in an airline family. His father was a United Airlines captain and his mother was a flight attendant. Immersed in aviation and travel from the day he was born, Mike began to fly at a very early age. When he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1986 with an undergraduate degree in economics and psychology and a bit of varsity baseball experience, he joined the United States Navy as a military aviator.

Dr. Barger (callsign “Crusher”) served most of his 13 years in the carrier Navy as an FA-18 pilot and flight instructor, completing three, six-month deployments aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and USS Dwight David Eisenhower (CVN-69). These deployments included combat action in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, over Bosnia, and in the skies above Kosovo. The highlight of Dr. Barger’s naval career was a three-year tour as an Instructor and then Chief Instructor at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (known to many as TOPGUN). Throughout his naval career, he was a widely published author, speaker, and educator on combat strategy and tactics, training techniques (particularly in advanced simulation), and complex weapons systems employment. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

From the Cockpit to the C-Suite

Dr. Barger left the US Navy in 1999 to become a founding member of JetBlue Airways along with his brother Dave — an airline industry veteran who held several senior leadership positions at Continental Airlines. Mike and Dave found the family approach to the JetBlue startup particularly satisfying, having both grown up in the airline business. While at JetBlue, Dr. Barger held many different leadership positions as the company received FAA certification, launched, and rapidly grew into the fifth largest airline in the United States. He created JetBlue University, the award-winning corporate training function that provides learning and development to all members of the JetBlue workforce; to this day, JetBlue University remains the only single-source provider of company education in the airline industry worldwide.

Dr. Barger also served as the senior captain on both varieties of JetBlue aircraft (the Airbus 320 and Embraer 190) and served as the senior leader responsible for all Flight Operations, Maintenance Operations, Talent Management, and Enterprise Strategy at the company. Also, and perhaps most instructive to his 2021 book and his passion for crisis leadership, Dr. Barger led the company’s Emergency Command Center, which guided JetBlue through events such as the 9/11 crisis, the 2003 Northeast US Blackout, the 2007 Valentine’s Day Crisis, and dozens of other major disruptions and crises.

Following his 13 years at JetBlue, Dr. Barger translated his passion for education into a leadership role at CorpU, an education technology company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As COO, he oversaw all CorpU operations, including the design, creation, and delivery of all CorpU Academy courses, educational offerings built on the wisdom and insight of the brightest minds in academia and business. Dr. Barger has a deep passion for helping leaders solve their most complex business challenges with knowledge and tools that help them harness the collective genius already present in their organizations.

If you believe that respecting, serving, and engaging stakeholders at every turn is a power and a privilege, then you and Mike are going to get along quite well.

Trained Tough, Educated by the Best

Mike Barger’s resume is just the beginning of what makes him a sought-after speaker, trainer, coach, consultant, and author. From his family, he learned about values and compassion and he gained a love for aviation. From the University of Michigan, he learned about economics, human psychology, and teamwork. From the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), he learned about preparedness, safety, honor, and how to develop nerves of steel. From his co-founders, crewmembers, and myriad stakeholders at JetBlue University, he learned about building values-based cultures and changing entire industries; he also learned about leading under the intense gaze of the public and the media. From his own graduate studies, he learned how theory underpins practice and how adults learn, adapt, and lead. From CorpU and the Ross School of Business, he learned that there is no higher calling than helping others to learn. And from his audiences, students, clients, and book readers, he continues to learn that together, we are stronger, and there is no better time to prepare for the unexpected than now.