Leadership Research Paper

Leadership Research Paper


Leadership Research Paper

Joshua Brown Embry Riddle


The aviation industry is one of the most volatile sectors that have subjected world leaders into diverse crises. The fragility of the sector is inherited from a myriad of factors which include cost structure, demand volatility and more importantly competitive pricing. It is important to underscore the fact that the demand for air travel is cyclical meaning it is characterized by periods of fluctuations that undermine the stability of the industry significantly. Air travel is also increasingly sensitive to economic performance. For instance, in 2016, airline stocks were subjected to great pressure as a result of concerns of the dwindling revenue environment as well as fears that the capacity discipline of the industry was eroding (Tacker, 2018). The competitive dynamics have seen the airline industry amass negative attitudes from the investors due to lack of sustainable and consistent income flows.

It is important to underscore the fact that ordinary factors such as outbreak of diseases, political skirmishes, and natural disasters among others are sufficient to influence the performance of the airline industry. For instance, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa saw several countries issue travel advisories to their citizens residing and intending to travel in different parts of Africa. This dealt a formidable blow to the air travel companies as their earnings were highly constrained. This paper here evaluates the performance of two leaders who include Donald Trump and William Seawell who are known for good and bad leadership respectively. Their categorization into good and bad leaders is based primarily on their response in resolving crises in the airline industry.

Background Information

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the current president of the United States who has been keen to transform the airline industry’s agenda. One of the ways he has done this is to ensure that air travel services are being offered at an affordable cost. Over the last several years, Donald Trump has been doing follow ups to achieve a lengthy softening process in the United States airline industry. He promised to set the industry in a manner that would eradicate any foreign competition that would otherwise threaten and undermine the status quo. Pursuing a populist course was his predominant strategy (Tacker, 2018).

Of importance to note is that the publicity of the Big Three Airlines has attracted attention of global competitors as Trump strived to maintain open skies. His liberal attitudes to air access as opposed to the views of many people have caused a significant ascension of growth in the industry over the past years. As a matter of fact, this is a signal and a manifestation of revival of the airline industry’s rejuvenation and movement to the next frontiers of growth. Such a leadership attitude is mainstream.

Another reason that makes Donald Trump a good leader is his promise to relax the draconian aviation regulations that undermined the airline industry’s performance. He did this to revamp the industry to higher levels of performance especially in 2015 and 2016. It is important to underscore the fact that the aviation policy does not feature in the priorities of a vast majority of prospective Presidential candidates in the United States. Despite the fact that the nationalistic appeal of the union of the pilot struck a deal with the populist candidates, their campaigns expressly negated the interest of Norwegian Airlines International to move and operate in the United States (Tacker, 2018). Trump stood firm against such misplaced arguments and appealed to the voters to show a great concern for their jobs and resist them squarely.

Finally, according to Hume (2016) a great leader does what is right and not what makes the majority of the people happy. Trump is such a leader who stood firm in defence of this philosophy. For instance, he stated that the foreign barriers against foreign competition in the United States airline industry did not bring any positives to the American people. Instead, it led to slower growth. Trump stated that the populist candidates were fanning the country to a dangerous territory whose costs would be immense. As a result, he stated that in the medium and long-term, there were lots of gains derived from liberal market access.

William Seawell: Bad Leader

William Seawell, the Chief Executive Officer of Pan Am Company, lead the company to its knees despite its past performance. During his leadership, he subscribed to the idea that the company was collapsing in its international flights as a result of insufficient large capacity carriers. One of the major factors to note herein is that his observation was not true. The company did restructuring in 1991 that would see it operate more than 60 aircrafts.

Seawell approximated that the company would gain a profit of $1.2 billion anchored by 7,500 employees (Tacker, 2018). However, Seawell led the company to a relaunch that subjected it to sustained losses over a long period of time. In this case herein, Seawell revealed his failure to make strategic evidence-based decisions. His negligence to adopt these leadership concepts is what eventually brought the well-respected company that was known for the subsequent innovations and the transformation it had caused in the airline industry to be declared bankrupt prior to its collapse.

Secondly, Seawell initiated a procurement process that would see several Boeing 747s purchased at a cost of $400, something that advanced the company’s debts. It is important to underscore the fact that an effective leader is keen to understand the issues facing the organization before such critical decisions are made. For instance, instead of adding to the burden of an already ailing company, the leader could have used these resources to ensure that the existing airlines operated to their utmost potential. Seawell did not have to focus on new ventures owing the market uncertainty that doomed the United States and global airline industry in 1991.

Finally, because of his poor performance, Seawell was sacked and discontinued from his job as the company went to its knees in the following years. An effective leader does not leave a scar and especially in a bad light wherever he goes. Seawell’s leadership approaches are sufficient to showcase how leadership is of critical importance in the progress and sustainability of any given organization.

According to Hume (2016), the transformation agenda of a leader is always informed by practical experiences and not mere arbitrary practices. Seawell failed in his mandate to understand the problems of his company and work towards addressing them. As a matter of fact, the fact that the company collapsed leaving his seasonal competitors thriving is a key indication that Seawell’s attention was more focused in fighting battles for the company that in real sense did not exist. Seawell became the biggest tragedy that doomed the progress of the Pan Am Company.

Literature Review

According to Boin & Hart (2003), every company faces a crisis in its lifetime. A period of crisis is marked by intense danger or difficult. It is for this reason that crises necessitate informed decision making in order to solve them. As mentioned earlier, evidence-based management is one of the most significant concepts that have gained course in the field of organizational management. The modern business environment has presented new opportunities and yet more complex challenges that necessitates sufficient data and information to inform the decision making process. A vast majority of firms have embarked on big data analytics to predict, challenge and confront impending crises real time before they occur (Hume, 2016).

Importantly, leaders ought to understand that crises are inevitable in the organizational setting. The most successful companies not only in the airline industry but also in other sectors today are the ones that made superior, quality and sustainable decisions that appropriately responded to the internal and external crises that faced them. The situational leadership style emphasizes that a leader must confront the problem the way it is. It denounces the use of procedures and standards that does not respond to the crisis in question appropriately (Hume, 2016). Leaders must be keen to avert crises because upon their occurrence, they cause extreme distress.

There are a number of factors that leaders in crisis ought to understand. To start with is the aspect of sobriety, critical thinking and innovativeness. Leadership is influence. Effective leadership entails influencing people in the right direction. Therefore, people who are in a position of leadership and are not able to influence their followers are not effective leaders. A leader is someone who courageously pursues a vision in a manner that resonates and aligns with the souls and expectations of the people (Hume, 2016).

Critical thinking involves considering a basket of options, weighing them and finally settling on that which accrues the best outcomes. Failure to do this accrues negative energy. Innovation brings about new ways of approaching the problem at hand to achieve the best outcomes. Innovative strategies work hand in hand with the situational leadership style and strategic management concept. It is important for the leaders to understand that their actions can lead to growth or collapse of the company in question. As a result, they need to be keen on what they do, take responsibility of their actions and hold the interest of the company at heart as opposed to their own self-interest.

Bad leadership is a serious threat to organizational progress and unless it is detected early, the organization will definitely collapse. Donald Trump has set standards as a good leader and his works have brought a lasting influence in the airline industry. Seawell’s bad leadership is also felt even in the modern times by all stakeholders including the investors, employees, and customers among others. The collapse of the Pan Am Company is still inopportune and gives all the reasons for leaders to be keen in their quest to be felt and make changes.


Hume, G. (2016). The leadership crisis. Union, Ontario: Municipal World.

Tacker, T. (2018). Introduction to air transport economics: From theory to applications. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Boin A. & Hart, P. (2003). Public leadership in times of crisis: Mission impossible? Public Administration Review, 63(5), p. 544.

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