The Role of Leadership and Technology in Successful and Sustainable Airline Management: A Case of Two Carriers

The Role of Leadership and Technology in Successful and Sustainable Airline Management: A Case of Two Carriers

Oliver H. Burckhardt, Kathleen M. Hargiss, Caroline Howard
DOI: 10.4018/jsita.2012100102
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A study about the role of leadership and technology in successful and sustainable airline management was conducted to further the knowledge concerning the effects these factors have on the sustainability of airline business. The goal of the study was to identify suitable leadership approaches, core and enabling technologies that are of importance for airline executives in the context of the global nature of the industry and its challenging, competitive environment. Conducting interviews with former executives from Continental Airlines and Lufthansa German Airlines and with C-level managers from airlines unaffiliated with these carriers provided insights concerning adequate methods to lead airlines that experience operational, organizational, or financial crises. One of the findings of the study, which was conducted by evaluating successful crisis management programs of Lufthansa and Continental Airlines, is the need to integrate both core and enabling technologies with a leadership approach that allows organizations to outperform their competitors and, more importantly, maintain their leading position.
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Airline-Specific Leadership Approaches

The findings concerning airline-specific leadership approaches revealed that integrative leadership, diversity management, innovation as well as crisis and change management in a global context, has become increasingly important in the 21st century. The recent literature suggests that the topic of crisis and change management especially in combination with risk management and emergency preparedness programs and the respective enabling technologies takes precedence over other aspects. Therefore, one needs to consider crisis and change management a major contributor to effective leadership in the airline industry.

Apart from taking the critical success factors outlined above into consideration, effective airline executives need to align their leadership approaches in a way that allows for innovation and unorthodox problem-solving strategies, empowerment of the workforce, strategic realignment of organizational and individual objectives, and finally an organizational culture of entrepreneurialism (Brenneman, 1998; Bruch, Gerber & Maier, 2005; Lumpé, 2008). Recent findings from scholars in the field of management science and practitioners in the area of airline management suggest that participative-transformational leadership methods, especially when combined with simulation technologies, could constitute an adequate approach to successful airline leadership in the context of crisis and airline-specific risk management. Although the insights gained from recent research allow for understanding of the mechanics of the change management initiated by Jürgen Weber and Gordon Bethune in the 1990s, little has been published since then with regard to the sustainability of the changes mentioned.

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