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Leading By Example At Soutwest Airlines

1266 words - 6 pages

Leading by Example at Southwest Airlines
University of Phoenix

Leading by Example at Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is widely recognized for their organizational culture. Their corporate motto of “doing the right thing” extends not only to their customers but also to their employees (Southwest Airlines, 2009.) Southwest Airlines is committed to provide a stable work environment with opportunity for personal growth and learning. This philosophy is supported by promoting creativity and providing employees the same concern, respect, and care that they are expected to share with every customer (Southwest Airlines, 2009) As one can imagine, the role of leadership is instrumental in ...view middle of the document...

Through his vision Southwest airlines has thrived. It is also safe to assume that Herb Kelleher is a level-5 leader which combines charismatic leadership with personal humility and professional will (Robbins and Judge, 2007.) Now consider what may happen if Southwest was to change leadership and how that may affect the communication process in the organization. Perhaps Southwest was to hire a charismatic yet egocentric Chief Executive Officer (CEO). A leader of this type might stifle creativity instead of endorse it. The ripple effect of discontent could further inhibit teamwork between work groups. For example, the pilots may not relay information to maintenance without fear of retribution. Another possibility is that Southwest Airlines replaced their CEO with a transactional leader. Robbins and Judge (2007) define transactional leadership as someone who is more passive in their leadership, motivating followers by simply clarifying roles and tasks. This type of leadership is counter-productive to their “work-hard play-hard” mentality. The end result could reduce overall effort and lead to more of a “it’s not my job” effort in communication. This effect would be pronounced in a management by exception leadership style where management is only visible when things go wrong. The analysis to this point has been at the CEO level but the effects would be similar even if at a reduced effect if these changes were made at group levels. It is through the basis of power that leadership styles derive their ability to impact and organization.
Southwest Airlines, like other companies, is subject to both formal and personal power. According to Robbins and Judge (2007), formal power is based on an individual’s position in an organization and comes from the ability to coerce or reward, or from formal authority. Although Southwest Airlines prides itself on their “for the employee” culture there is still significant coercive power. The majority of the coercive power comes from the requirement to adhere to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Southwest is highly regulated by the FAA and non-compliance can have serious consequences. At the corporate level heavy fines and even in extreme cases shut down of operations can occur for failure to comply. At the individual level pilots can lose their license and thus their ability to work for violations. Conversely, Southwest’s reward power is mostly nonfinancial. Since Southwest has a significant portion of their workforce is unionized the ability to promote or change pay is contractually based. The most common example of legitimate power at Southwest is the pilots who are Captains. They are the final authority over a plane that carries approximately 150 people. Robbins and Judge (2007) refers to personal power as coming from a person’s unique characteristics and further breaks it down to expertise and respect. There are many forms of expertise at Southwest Airlines. Examples include pilots, flight...

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