Leadership of Southwest Airlines
Development of the Human Factor
According to (Carter,1996), Human Resource Development falls in the category of activities that develop different personnel within an organization for example career wise, for training purposes and in the general development of the organization. This is slightly different from Human Resource Management which being a key management activity allows those in leadership positions to decide the staffing requirements, recruitment and training of the most competent employees, monitoring the performance issues of all employees within the organization and ensuring that the personnel and management practices in use conform to the various regulations put in place within the organization.
Human Resource in an organization deals with people whose work is to staff and operate an organization which places it in the same category as the management of financial and material resources.
In an organization, the blending of Human Resource development with leadership trends allows the bringing out of the Human side within any given organization. The leadership trends must bring out the distinctive personality of the organization since this is the future of the organization.
The leadership within the organization must be such that the leaders possess coaching as compared to control skills. This is for the sole reason that the motivated employees have goals and objectives to achieve and they are always looking for proper ways to achieve them. The organization must therefore provide learning opportunities for the staff which are continuous and provide an opportunity for growth of both the employees and the organization.
Motivation is one of the key requirements for this to be sustained. The employees must be willing to assume responsibility for their tasks by trusting the management, this is what is referred to as a self- motivating work force which results from good leadership within any organization.
The workforce should also be self-Educated since with the changes in technology, there is need for the possession and acquisition of skills that enable those who work within an organization to keep it ahead of their competitors. This can be done through self or team education. When an organization empowers its workers, they assume responsibility and consequently narrow the knowledge gap between the workers and the management of the organization.
Southwest Airlines is one of the organizations whose social invention has enabled those who work there to discover and realize their true capabilities. This can be attributed to how the social environment within the organization combines humor with responsibility within the workplace. The employees are allowed to work in teams without necessarily being supervised.
Prospective employees during job interviews must not only only portray their self-development attitudes but must also have a good sense of humor and people with such characteristics are the only ones hired by Southwest Airlines.
Freiberg (1996) attributes the success of Southwest Airlines to the management which has created a culture of treating employees as number one assets through programs such as profit-sharing and empowerment of employees in the decision making process. Current management techniques like the celebration of different milestones is practiced
The People Department, an equivalent of the Human Resource Department looks for these qualities when hiring enabling the company to have highly motivated employees and an efficient work environment that attracts customers. They hire for attitude and train for skills (Freiberg, 1996).
Southwest Airlines which was founded in 1971 came to be known as a low-cost regional air carrier and a leader as far as worker responsibility is concerned. Little attention is paid to the formal organization structure which is why decision-making is done in committees which involve both workers and the management.
1. The organization has recorded a profit for the thirty fifth consecutive year in January 2008, which means that it has been profitable since 1973. It has since then grown from three planes and two hundred and fifty employees to over two hundred planes and over twenty five thousand employees. The company experienced financial problems during the early years but the manner in which it was handled is what prevented the entire ordeal from bringing the company on its knees. The three-year legal battle which was aimed at keeping Southwest Airlines on the ground by other airlines at the time, was curved into a children’s book ‘Gumwrappers and Goggles’ in 1983 by Winifred Barnum and later the book was adopted into a stage musical ‘Show your Spirit’ which was sponsored by Southwest Airlines and played in the towns serviced by the airline.
Southwest Airline’s corporate culture has consistently supported the profitable airline and is attributed to the extensive study of Pacific Southwest Airlines by Herb Keller the founder of Southwest Airlines and his colleagues who applied the ideas of the California-based Airline. He adopted a plan which enabled profit-sharing. The plan enables the employees to own ten percent of the company stock ( Freiberg,1996). This makes the organization a Human Organization in that the welfare of the employees is focused. Ninety percent of the employees are union members. The pilots are symbolized by the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association which is separate from the bigger ALPA union.
The organization apart from flying the largest number of passengers per employee in the industry has the most modern planes which take ten flights per day making this twice the industry’s average. A major accident is yet to be reported. The customer complaints in the industry are the fewest the reason why the company has the highest customer ratings in the industry. In the history of the company, employees have never been mass-fired.
The company’s competitors work extremely hard to implement similar worker responsibility programs like those of Southwest airlines as opposed to the command-and-control leadership approaches. This comes at a time when Southwest Airlines is acting towards implementation of electronic entertainment as opposed to the all-human entertainment which customers have all along been treated to.
According to Freiberg (1996), Southwest Airlines in a move to excel as a human organization practices future scenario planning, allows everyone within the organization both employees and customers to find humor even in tense moments which allows them to think funny and celebrate everything. Communication is enhanced by ensuring that all feedback is appropriately responded to, the organization ensures that the only thing that is taken seriously is the competition and the employee newsletter which contains stories and information is published. This in turn sustains emotions such as fun, empathy, creativity, motivation, love, supportiveness, flamboyance, outrageousness and a playful spirit among employees while emphasizing compassion and humility.
Communication within the organization is open and flows through all departments and the systems used are suitable for the task. This ensures that all the staff has the information they require so as to make decisions and to encourage and promote the family and fun environment for both the staff and the customers. The corporate values with the personnel are upheld and the systems align to the values of the organization (Beeston, 2003).
In Southwest airlines, honesty and consistency in communication is emphasized, the employees always come first as opposed to ‘the customer is the king’, the people hired in the organization are those that already support the corporate values and then they are trained for skills. Everyone within the organization is encouraged and rewarded for being themselves and they are in a way given ownership. All this is what gives those who work within the organization, responsibility to support the outcome of their input.
Leadership and collaboration is based on common commitment to the clearly defined corporate values which are communicated frequently to employees and customers. The job security of all people within the organization is focused on since profitability equals job security and this ensures that everyone benefits from profitability due to the integral part they have to play in order to achieve it (Beeston, 2003).
The company uses celebrations to reinforce their culture, keep their history alive and have fun. For instance the Southwest’s parties either big or small, are thrown whenever they can fit in the calender, even in July or September. Southwest’s culture directly provides a reason why people feel proud to work for the organization while at the same time making them feel like family members.
In conclusion, Herb Kelleher the Co-founder of Southwest Airlines in an interview once said that all people within the organization are leaders in one way or the other regardless of their position which is the key quality the People Department looks out for in the process of hiring so as to ensure that their leadership potential is nurtured. This shows that Southwest’s success comes because of the focus it places on people, fun and love. The stock ticker for the company is LUV.
In order to ensure that “ That the Legend Live On” Herb Kelleher once in a message to the field partly read: “ When you are with your grandchildren sitting around, I want you to tell them that having connection with Southwest Airlines was one of the best things that ever happened to you in your complete life span. I want you to be able to say, Southwest Airlines ennobled and enriched my life; it made me better, and bigger, and stronger than I could have been alone.” ( Freiberg, 1996, p.318 ).
Beeston P. (2003). Belief Model for the Leadership of Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines).
Retrieved from Http://www.mission-coach.co.ud/
Carter, M. (1996). Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business. Minnesota: Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Freiberg, K. & Freiberg J. (1996). Nuts! : Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for personal and business Success. San Diego: Bard Productions.