The communication style of a leader will determine the productivity outcome of that organization. Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher has a charismatic leadership style, which has made Southwest Airlines employees take on challenges in downtimes as personal challenges. The employees respect and trust Kelleher and they are committed to do what it takes to see Southwest Airlines grow while keeping the environment fun LUV-ing.
Responding to Leadership Styles
There are four different leadership styles, transformational, charismatic, transactional and authentic. These styles communicate upward and downward differently and their effect on an organization is very different.
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392). Kelleher proved this when early on after starting Southwest the company experienced cash flow difficulties. Kelleher and his team were faced with either selling planes or laying off employees. Kelleher decided to meet with the ground service employees and explain the dilemma. “He asked the ground service people to reduce the turnaround time at the airport gate from 55 to 15 minutes, thereby, improving the revenue producing capability of the airplanes. The ground service personnel agreed to the goal and accomplished the goal” (Smith, 2004 pg. 29). This type of communication is common for a transformational and charismatic leader and Kelleher proves that it works.
Transactional leaders communicate in ways that are geared towards achieving an established goal. They also will outline the task requirements and the roles that each person will play to achieve the goal. The communication of a transactional leader would not allow the creative atmosphere that Southwest currently has. Also, transactional leadership communication would result in mediocre leadership and a major airlines needs extraordinary leadership to compete with other airlines.
Authentic Leaders are people that act on their beliefs and values openly (Robbins, 2011 pg. 394). Communication from this type of leader would be very candid and open. The communication would encourage open communication and stick to ideals (Robbins, 2011 pg. 394). Herb Kelleher demonstrates this type of leadership and communication with employees. This type of communication works in favor of the organizational beliefs of Southwest.
The type of power that is shown in the Southwest organization is formal power, reward power, legitimate power, and personal referent power. All of these different types of power have contributed to the success of Southwest.
The culture of Southwest is one of creativity and fun-LUVing and this is the personal power that employees feel. Herb Kelleher, because of his position in the company, has formal and legitimate power. However, he does not use it in his communication in the organization. Kelleher uses reward and referent power in his communications. He tells employees when things are going well and when things need improvement. By using referent power the employees are willing to make the necessary changes Kelleher asks them to make because they like, respect and admire him.
When Kelleher told the ground crew about the financial dilemma that the organization was facing he used reward power. The employees knew that it was in their best interest to comply with the challenge and achieve the challenge. The reward for compliance was both financial and non-financial. The financial reward for compliance was that the employees and their colleagues were able to keep their jobs; the non-financial reward for compliance was the recognition they would receive from not only top managers but their colleagues.