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Leadership Communication Analysis & Leadership Communication Plan

By:   •  October 18, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  3,260 Words (14 Pages)  •  32 Views

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9-2 Final Project: Leadership Communication Analysis and Leadership Communication Plan

Amonda Golida

Southern New Hampshire University

Abstract

This is an analysis of Southwest Airlines organizational communication. The key leaders who affect the organization’s communications and how they do so will be examined. The organizational operations will be described from a systems theory approach. The organization’s mission, vision, goals, and overall culture will be identified, as well as the internal and external audiences receiving the communications will be explained. The company’s communications will be examined by use of the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. How effective the organization’s communications approach is on internal and external stakeholders will also be examined. From the systems theory standpoint, the communications approach will be analyzed for how it affects the organization’s culture. Lastly, the ways the communication approach could inhibit growth and the organization’s approach to ethics will be examined.

Organizational Operations

        When examining the organizational operations of Southwest Airlines, the systems theory can be applied from many different aspects for Southwest. The first aspect is productive processes which involves communication with the “environment,” which would be the target audience in this case, in order to receive feedback that will help fine-tune services and better rewards programs to increase ticket sales. According to Corlett (2005), “System as it illuminates productive processes: the input-throughput-output mechanisms that result in products and services going out the door. If the typical managerial leader has any knowledge of system theory, this is often the piece he or she has. This is a key insight into the organization as system, but it is not a full picture of same.”

A different aspect is the enabling of processes which allows departments’ and individuals’ to be affected by one another, for example, if something goes haywire with a flight, while the flight operations is primarily responsible for correcting the issue, this causes a problem for the marketing division as they must perform crisis management to maintain the brand’s image throughout the incident.

        Corlett (2005) stated the following:

“System as it illuminates enabling processes: the mechanisms that control and measure the relationships and interactions among the organization's subsidiary parts--individuals, groups, departments, profit centers. The key points are two: (1) something that affects one part or level of the system affects all other parts and levels; (2) no single part of the organizational system can be allowed to sub-optimize, or over-achieve...each part must operate in concert with all other parts”

Mission, Vision, Goals and Culture

According to Southwest’s website, their mission is to “connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel” (“Culture,” 2016). Their vision and goal is “to become the World's Most Loved, Most Flown, and Most Profitable Airline” (“Culture,” 2016).

A dedicated page on their website cites that their values consist of five pillars that have certain characteristics: the Warrior Spirit (working hard, desiring to be the best, being courageous, displaying urgency, persevering and innovating), the Servant’s Heart (following the Golden Rule, adhering to principles, putting other first, demonstrating pro-active customer service, being egalitarian and embracing the SWA family), Fun-LUVing Attitude (having fun, not taking yourself to seriously, maintaining perspective, celebrating successes, enjoying your work and being a passionate team player) and Working the Southwest Way (honoring safety and reliability, giving friendly customer service and being low cost) (“Culture,” 2016).

Key Leaders

The first key leader for Southwest’s organizational communications is the chief executive officer, Gary Kelly. Kelly is the main leader that internal and external audiences look to for communications. Regardless of how many people employed under him are hired to facilitate necessary communications, for the sake of the brand’s image and the communications coming across as a unified message, Kelly is primarily looked to for communications.

Being the CEO, means his hands are in everything and nothing at the same time. He births the idea and then must connect with lower-level leaders who facilitate crafting the strategy, products, etc. that turns the idea into reality. For example, in order to get a social media campaign started Kelly must communicate with the chief financial officer to access financial resources and the chief commercial officer. This brings us to the second key leaders of organizational communications at Southwest, the executive vice presidents and senior vice presidents who have the important job of filtering the CEO’s ideas down into responsibilities for their respective departments.

Lastly, the key communication leaders with the most complex job is the managing directors and vice presidents. These are the leaders that must really communicate with one another to work together and give projects life. These leaders oversee the people who do the most crucial work; the social media manager, the spokesperson, the pilots, the flight attendants, the customer service reps, etc.

Audiences

        Southwest’s external audience are those travelers who are cost-conscious and not enchanted by the gimmicks of flying. Southwest offers travelers straight forward prices without hidden fees or ridiculous baggage charges, and limits those unnecessary extras that incur more costs for travelers such as full meals, no seating classes, and single style aircrafts. This audience can also be expanded for the sake of external communications to include media outlets.

        Southwest’s internal audience is their employees and partners. In order to effectively communicate with this audience, the CEO praises them, empowers them and makes their stories the ones the company is built around, making sure to remind them why they matter to the company and millions of people worldwide.

Gallo (2014) states in his article:        

“The next step is where communication really plays a starring role. Storytelling is the single most effective way to remind employees of the company’s purpose and to reinforce the purpose in their day-to-day interactions with customers. Every week Gary Kelly gives a “shout out”—public praise—to employees who have gone above and beyond to show great customer service. Each month the Southwest Spirit magazine features the story of an employee who has gone above and beyond. Southwest highlights positive behaviors through a variety of recognition programs and awards. Finally, internal corporate videos like this one are filled with real examples and stories to help employees visualize what each step of the purpose looks and feels like.”

SWOT Analysis

The main strength of Southwest’s chosen communication model is that the one-way communication eliminates excessive chatter and does not require anyone but the executive management team to “think” for the company. It is believed that this maintains productivity as the entire organization is listening to one directive.

According to Duverge’s (2015) article:

“Making decisions from the top allows leaders to be clear on goals and expectations. It also gives employees more time to focus on work duties instead of attending meetings discussing potential directions of the company. When a strong leader is at the forefront, managers can quickly and effectively take charge, assign tasks to teams or employees, and establish solid deadlines. Autocratic leadership gives companies a drive that they might not have otherwise.”

        The weakness of the one-way communication model is that executives cannot always adequately determine what will work best for their employees as they are not “in the trenches” to know the ins and outs of how things work. For example, management can give the directive that all hanger staff wear rubber shoes only for electrical safety, however this could be a problem for some hanger staff that need metal toe shoes for physical safety around the heavy machinery. According to Duverge (2015), “With only the senior executives making decisions, their conclusions may be seen as lacking creativity and being harmful to overall performance.”

        The opportunity that the communication model presents for Southwest is the opportunity to create a new organizational culture without having to face resistance. The top-down, closed communication model puts the entire organization on one accord leaving little room for independence or individuality. The threats presented by this model include distorted and misinterpreted messages, loss of stakeholders due to no channel of feedback for stakeholders to communicate back to the company through. This also results in decreased productivity as things can get done wrong, employees can become confused (with no clarification assistance) and new dangers can arise from all the confusion.

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