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Analysis of Leadership, Power, and Motivation within Southwest Airlines Company

Abstract
The leadership, culture, and committed workforce at Southwest Airlines Company helps keep good communication flowing within the organization. A combination of both a supportive and participative leadership style with a very charismatic CEO gives this organization an edge above all other organizations. Having mastered a motivational technique within the company also helps keep their employees working hard and wanting to not only better themselves but better the organization. Lastly, the committed workforce at Southwest helps to keep communication flowing between upper management and front-line employees. Southwest manages to find a perfect fit for their employees who not only maintain their individuality, but want to make Southwest the best organization that it can be.

Southwest Airlines Company (SWA) is an organization with strong values, strong leadership, and a strong workforce. These qualities combine to create a very unique organizational culture. Where other airlines emphasize the passenger comes first, Southwest emphasizes their employees as the airline’s “first customer”. This has been an integral part of Southwest’s culture (Smith). I will first look into the culture at SWA. Specifically at the leadership style currently employed, and then I will look at how different leadership styles would affect this organization.

From the outside looking in, it is pretty easy to see the leadership style of SWA’ CEO Herb Kelleher as being very charismatic. He has a very “unorthodox style when compared to CEO’s of other major corporations” (Kim). This charismatic leader inspires people in his organization to place the needs of the company on a level with their personal needs. This has an unbelievable effect on followers. Being such a charismatic leader, Kelleher is extremely self-confident. He has a vision for the future and behaves in an extraordinary way (Kim).

The current leadership style at SWA can be described as supportive and participative. The supportive style can be seen by the friendly CEO of Southwest who genuinely cares for his staff and is concerned for all work-related and personal needs of his subordinates. Kelleher has described the organization as being an “upside-down pyramid” (Kim). Upper management personnel are at the bottom while the front line employees are at the top. The front line employees are considered the experts in the organization and are “the ones that make things happen” (Kim). Kelleher leads the organization while being supported by all of his employees (Kelly). The participative style can be seen in how Kelleher utilizes employee’s suggestions before making any decisions. He feels that since the employees are actually the ones dealing with the problem, they would have a much better idea on how to handle the situation than upper management (Kim). He wants everyone in the organization to work together as a team, much like a well oiled machine.

The leadership styles that are currently in place at SWA create great group communication. There is a two-way flow of communication between the employees and upper management. I believe if the organization were to utilize an autocratic leadership style, their group communication would suffer greatly. The communication channel between the employees and upper management would only be a one-way channel and it would all be downward. This would hinder the ability for upper management to make decisions when there is a problem because they wouldn’t be receiving suggestions from the front-line employees who actually know what is going on. Another leadership style, the transformational leadership style, would also not be a good fit for SWA. This style inspires followers to suppress their self-behaviors for the good of the organization (Robbins). I think this leadership style...
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