You are on page 1of 6

Felix Zamarripa

Ethics 3332

ORGL 3332 Ethics II


Case Study: Developing Leaders at Southwest Airlines

Case Study: Developing Leaders at Southwest Airlines

Felix Zamarripa
Ethics 3332
The leadership style at Southwest Airlines is value-based and the most
prominent style is that of authentic leadership. There are also traits
demonstrated by the management that follow the servant authentic and
positive leadership styles. Southwests Warrior Spirit focusses on caring,
emotions, and putting employees first. The culture at Southwest Airlines is
described as being fun, spirited, zesty, hardworking, and filled with love
(Shinn, 2004: 18). Southwests description of how they treat their employees
and the atmosphere surrounding their culture are characteristics that can be
found in organizations with value-added leadership styles. All three valueadded styles such as authentic, servant, and positive can be used to
describe the previously mentioned characteristics.
Southwest Airlines leadership style starts to tip towards the authentic
leadership style because they create a supportive culture which is set-up to
facilitate the development of leaders and leadership. Southwest Airlines is
unyielding in their expectations on leadership having the right attitude,
behavior, and demeanor. The challenge is that there seems to be no
impressive or innovative methods to train their future and present leaders.
The leadership is groomed into the type of leaders that Southwest Airlines
wants through formal training by using consultants, by briefings, and by
written and verbal communications. Authentic leadership style is more in
line with what Southwest Airlines does to develop their leaders. Servant
Leaderships focus on followers rather than on the organization or the
leader (Dierendonck, 2011) gets priority over organizational effectiveness

Felix Zamarripa
Ethics 3332
which is essential to this type of leadership style. The servant leadership
style does not depict the development of leadership at Southwest Airlines.
The authentic leadership style is further noticed as Southwest Airlines
monitors its employees and removes any employees who do not exhibit the
previously mentioned characteristics of the organization. The leadership of
the organization is held responsible for assuring that employees fit the
organizational structure by having the employees behave in a manner
acceptable to Southwest Airlines management. Loving, caring for others,
authenticity, and having a sense of humor are important at Southwest
Airlines and if individuals do not possess those characteristics they will not
become a leader in the organization. I believe that Southwest Airlines desires
to have an authentic leadership that has strong articulated values that guide
decisions and behaviors and a person who lacks such abilities is developed
as per the values of the organization and the external pressures. Authentic
leadership is focused on the leader and their self-awareness (Afsaneh
Nahavandi, p.196). Authentic leadership has a strong ethical and moral
component which is similar to the servant leadership (Afsaneh Nahavandi,
p.196).
Southwest Airlines also exhibits a servant leadership style which is
observed in the creation of a culture that is expected to be full of love and
caring throughout the organization. The organization promotes the culture by
creating a team of 100 employees (Culture Committee) who teach the
companys culture. The Culture committee is also responsible for maintaining

Felix Zamarripa
Ethics 3332
the Southwest SPIRIT and creating a culture with its own language that
includes key words such as Southwest Family, Servant Leadership, and
New Hires, which signifies the importance to the organization. The servant
leadership is reinforced by the expectations that everyone is held responsible
for promoting the culture. The servant leadership style involves Southwest
Airlines having strong training programs and promoting from within;
therefore, reinforcing the relationship between follower and leader. The
companys co-founder and past CEO were also excellent story tellers which
helped promote Southwest Airlines culture.
The culture at Southwest Airlines is described as a culture which
assimilates positive leadership. Some of the characteristics to be
implemented at Southwest Airlines are similar to those mentioned in the
book for a positive leadership style. Those characteristics consist of the
following; encouraging positive deviance as demonstrated in the promotion
of the culture, focusing on strengths as demonstrated in the companys
leadership and developing employee-growth programs. This helps create a
positive climate as seen in the implementation of Culture Committee that is
instilled with the responsibility to promote the positive culture, maintaining
positive relationships as seen in the creation of a loving and caring culture
where involvement is expected, and having positive communications as
demonstrated in the companys culture. Authentic leadership and positive
leadership both focus on the relationship between the followers and the

Felix Zamarripa
Ethics 3332
leaders where positive leaders take on positive perspectives that guide their
approach in leading (Afsaneh Nahavandi, p.198).
Southwest Airlines overall leadership style more closely follows that of
authentic leadership. Southeast Airlines has an organization which best
depicts the establishing and developing of the relationship between the
followers and the leaders. Southwest develops their leadership through
extensive leadership development programs. Southwest creates a positive
culture which sustains itself by expecting that leaders possess qualities
encouraged by ethical behaviors. Authentic leaders behave ethically and
develop relationships with followers while relying on their values (Afsaneh
Nahavandi, p.196). Southwest Airlines emphasizes the leaders selfawareness as the source of effective leadership.

Felix Zamarripa
Ethics 3332

References
Nahavandi A, Eileen A. Restructuring Teams for the Re-Engineered
Organization. The Academy of Management Executive (1993-2005) [serial
online]. 1994:58. Available from: JSTOR Journals, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July
4, 2016.
Dierendonck D, Patterson K. Compassionate Love as a Cornerstone of
Servant Leadership: An Integration of Previous Theorizing and Research.
Journal Of Business Ethics [serial online]. April 8, 2015;128(1):119-131.
Available from: Business Abstracts with Full Text (H.W. Wilson), Ipswich, MA.
Accessed July 4, 2016.