Southwest Airlines: Leadership Matters Essay

1391 words - 6 pages

Southwest Airlines: Leadership Matters
Latrice Alston
University of Phoenix
COM 530: Communication for Accountants
Tonya Boddie
September 12, 2012

Southwest Airlines: Leadership Matters
Leadership styles affect the way organizations function and interact with employees, consumers, and business partners. Leaders develop a style of communicating based many times on experience. Southwest Airlines, a leader in the airline industry has enjoyed unparalleled success due to its business plan and dynamic leadership. For Southwest Airlines, senior management places great emphasis on employees realizing satisfied employees are pivotal to the success the ...view middle of the document...

Southwest Airlines unlike some other organizations realize the value of empowering employees and leaders to have a participatory role in the organization’s success. Getz (2009) asserts organizations that restrict interaction with leadership and create organizational structures based on strict compliance to rules lead to underperformance and in some cases failure (p.38). As a result of the realization ineffective strategies do not produce results; management at Southwest Airlines adapted what has become known as an I-Form organization. Miles, Miles, Snow, Blomqvist, and Rocha (2009) hold that an I-Form organization is formulated to encourage and pursue innovation.
Leadership Matters
The culture of Southwest Airlines is the product of leadership’s focus on creating and maintaining the visionary leadership of Herb Kelleher and Rolling King in 1967. Kelleher and King from the start relied less on authoritative style of leadership and more toward a participative style of managing and leading. Autocratic leadership sets clear expectations and often rigid guidelines. Autocratic leaders are more focused on leading and sometimes seem to be less concerned about receiving input from subordinates. Within Southwest Airlines employees and management work together to accomplish goals and objectives. Participative leadership encourages and fosters collaboration. The democratic leadership style allows managers to lead but also have a participatory role in achieving objectives. While the autocratic (authoritative) leadership style may produce quantity, the democratic leadership style produces quality. Democratic leaders realize the value of employee engagement which results in motivated, dedicated, and satisfied employees.
Southwest Airlines encourages openness and candor realizing when employees feel free to share their opinions the work environment is most time positively impacted.
Communication is crucial in the Southwest organization. From the beginning Kelleher and King placed employees first realizing motivated employees have the power through their actions to create satisfied customers. Additionally Kelleher ( 1997) stated “But it's not enough to try to assure people a job; equally important is allowing them to feel liberated when they come to work, to be creative, to think outside the lines” (p. 23). As a result of placing emphasis on employees first, the organization has consistently been rated near the top of the leader’s quadrant in the airline industry.
Culture and Communication

Communication and culture are two sides of the same coin in many ways. Organizations that have effective and open communication most time have created a culture conducive to information sharing and inclusivity. Southwest Airlines has masterfully created both a culture of excellence and one that realizes the value of effective communication. To this end, the attitude within the organizations fosters the sharing of best demonstrated...

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