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“Ms. McCall has made her mark by turning easyJet from a company in chaos into one with steadily rising profits in Europe’s fiercely competitive airline industry”. This is one of the sentences of an article byNicola Clark which appeared in The New York Times in 2015. In this article Clark recounts, how Carolyn McCall the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of easyJet has turned the company to a very successful brand. The article is entitled “EasyJet Chief Leads Airline Through Turnaround”

Your task is to prepare an evaluation of the leadership and management style of Carolyn McCall. The Clark article should be your starting point.You are then invited to supplement the information in this article by wider reading. You need to find out how her career has progressed since The New YorkTimes article. You will find extensive information aboutCarolyn McCall on the web.

In writing your report you are expected to utilise leadership and change theory in your critical assessment of McCall. In so doing you may, among other issues, wish to consider the following issues:

  • Is McCall a manager or a leader or both? Set out your rationale underpinning your answer.
  • The characteristics and skills that have helped herdrive the company forward.
  • What could be the consequences of taking her style too far?
  • Will McCall bethe right person for easyJet during the timesahead, or does the company now require more of a ‘manager’ than a ‘leader’?

Your challenge is complex and you may make reference to any other issues that you deem relevant to a thorough understanding of McCall’s leadership style. 

Overview of EasyJet Company

In the article authored by Nicola Clark, Carolyn McCall has been praised for exceptional display of managerial skills that took her company, EasyJet to the peak of success (Nytimes.com 2018). In the given report, Carolyn McCall’s leadership style shall be assessed thoroughly by gathering evidences from a wide range of works. The report shall however use Clark’s article as the base for the analysis. The overview section shall provide insight into EasyJet Company while the following sections would focus on Carolyn McCall, her leadership style, relevant theories and critical analysis of her style. While presenting the overview, a brief outlook into the European aviation industry shall be included as well. In addition, the report would analyze the consequences of her leadership style in the future and analyze whether she should continue as the chief of EasyJet or not. Whether McCall is both a leader and a manager or either one, shall also be discussed.

The report will also compare and contrast McCall’s leadership to that of her predecessor and evaluate whether she is best suited as a manager or a leader. The report shall further elaborate the skills and qualities that have allowed McCall to take the company to a higher position. An understanding of the different theories of leadership and management would help explain McCall’s style of leadership, its effectiveness and future. 

The European aviation industry is one of world’s biggest generators of employment supporting more than 60 million jobs and 3 trillion pounds in GDP every year. Ranking below the United States aviation industry, the European industry is slowly but surely making a mark despite the region’s poor economic performance. EasyJet Company has an important role to play in this improved performance of the European aviation industry. The company made its humble beginnings in the year 1995 at London and expanded to Europe the next year that is in 1996. In 2005, Andrew Harrison was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the company who remained in office until 2010. EasyJet was awarded the best low-cost airline in Europe for ten consecutive years that showed the company’s remarkable success. However, it was confronted with loss and chaos during the 2009-2010 periods when it faced increasing customer complaints of repeated delays and unsatisfactory customer service. The nightmarish phase was further worsened by the losses that were close to 100 million pounds owing to strikes by air traffic controllers and weather disruptions. Within one year after McCall took over as the CEO, the company’s revenue started showing positive signs with an increase of 16.1% in 2011 totaling to 3,452 million pounds. By 2015, the company’s revenues went up and earned a profit of 686 million pounds before tax displaying an annual growth of 22.2% from the previous year. The year 2016 however witnessed a fall in the revenues with only 495 million pounds of profit before tax, owing to the turbulences faced by the aviation industry that include fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. McCall managed to bring the profits on track in 2017 before her resignation as the CEO of EasyJet with 5 billion pounds as revenues with a profit margin of 8.1% from previous year (Corporate.easyjet.com 2018).

Carolyn McCall and her leadership style

McCall’s leadership style can be better understood by applying the different leadership models and theories that about the scholarly world. These theories were formulated decades ago with the Great Man Theory being one of the oldest of all. According to this theory, a leader must possess a charming personality. The leader must have qualities like commanding authority, charm, intelligence, courage and so on (Mendoza et al. 2016). Then other theories like the Trait Theory and later, the Behavioral theories and Contingency theories and Transformational were developed. McCall’s leadership can be categorized as having minor aspects of Contingency theory and major aspects of Transformational theory of leadership. The Contingency Theory focuses chiefly on the setting in which the leader works. According to this theory, an effective team is formed based on the leader’s style and the influence he or she has over the situation. On the other hand, Transformational Theory describes that the leader has the ability to boost employee morale and transform negative situations into positive ones. As mentioned in the article, McCall applied inventive techniques to comprehend the issues that were faced by the company (Greer, Lusch and Vargo 2016). Her frequent conversation with the flight crews inside the flight demonstrated her eagerness to find out the problems and resolve those without wasting time. She hardly had time for staying in the office. In fact, according a report, McCall had no office at all. Although these things bothered her least as she was focused on improving the company’s fortune. 


By 2010, most of the top officials at EasyJet had resigned following the disastrous performance of the aviation company. Then, in July 2010, Carolyn McCall joined the company as the new CEO replacing Harrison. She demonstrated exemplary skills from the onset and took the company to new heights with innovative decisions. The June 2015 article published on The New York Times celebrated McCall’s success by praising her as the chief who turned around the fate of the nearly sinking company. It took her just one year to turn things around with her exemplary skills. During the disastrous year of 2010, when McCall took over, she was determined to proceed systematically by focusing first on the employees and then on the customers. This strategy helped, as she knew that without an enthusiastic team, she would not be able to lead the company alone and satisfy the customers. After instilling a sense of confidence amongst the employees, she shifted her focus to the customers and was resolute to mitigate all their complaints (Eichorn 2017). Knowing that she had no experience in the aviation sector further elevates her role as a leader. Overhauled by unending difficulties in the first few months of her tenure, McCall demonstrated extreme composure and despite few downs, EasyJet maintained steady growth.

Mentioned previously, McCall’s leadership style has most of the traits of Transformational model of leadership (Brescoll 2016). The transformational theory proposed by James McGregor Burns describes that a leader must possess motivational power, a strong sense of ethics and responsible use of authority. A look at McCall’s journey as the chief executive of EasyJet brings forth all these qualities very clear. She never resorted to unethical practices to bring profit to her company nor did she encourage others to do so. During her tenure, only hard work and dedication worked as fuels for pushing the company to a position where it is today. 

Studies and researches on leadership styles have been conducted innumerable times on previous occasions. However, very few have focused on a female leader and analyzed her leadership style. According to Tate and Yang (2015), female leaders are gradually coming to the fore and making a mark for themselves and that has forced researchers to focus on them as well. In many studies conducted previously, there was hardly any reference to female leaders when it came to strong leaders of the world in different fields. Ho et al. (2015) however argue that in the recent past, women have received the respect and accolades they deserve when it comes to strong leadership. Most studies have been on women as leaders, not on any specific personality. In addition, a major part of the research on leadership styles and theories relating to women revolve around gender bias and inequality. However, many articles have been published in different newspapers and magazines about the magnetic leadership of Carolyn McCall and her contribution to EasyJet. The media praised her patience and commitment in the midst of the turbulence faced by the company during the first year after she joined. In her own words, McCall had faced almost all the major shocks that aviation industry could face and yet the company survived.

Many studies have been conducted on the similarities and differences between a leader and a manager. According to a report published in the Harvard Business Review, the actual definition of a leader can be comprehended by understanding the role of the manager (Hbr.org 2018). In addition, business has recognized a novel power ethic that supports cooperative leadership and rejects individualism, promotes the authority of the group over personality. Stein (2016), on the other hand is of the view that the roles defining a manager and a leader are distinct and that the two entities although sometime overlapping cannot be considered the same. The author has presented a clear distinction between the two entities by drawing reference from a school setting.

Carolyn McCall resigned from her post as EasyJet CEO in 2017 after giving seven years of dedicated service to the company as a leader. After the article was published in The New York Times in 2015, McCall’s name was synonymous with dynamism, charisma, courage, patience and intelligence. Her tenure as EasyJet CEO silenced many of her critics including her biggest rival, Michael O’Leary, head of Ryanair who had once labeled her as a ‘media luvvie’ (Ft.com 2018). With zero experience and expertise in the aviation industry and coming from a media background, rarely anyone would have predicted the turnaround that McCall managed. Her focus was on improving customer satisfaction and that was achieved within one year. By 2017, the airline company managed to attract over 70 million customers worldwide with more than 12 million business travelers. These figures further solidify the effectiveness of strategies employed by McCall.

As mentioned already in the previous sections, the leadership style demonstrated by McCall inclines more towards Contingency and Transformational models of leadership. Apart from displaying skills of leadership, she also demonstrated great managerial skills. A close analysis of her tenure reveals the features of various theories of management as well. To cite an example, McCall displayed characteristics like initiative, equity, authority, responsibility, and discipline, which constitute the fourteen principles of Henri Fayol’s Administrative Management Theory (Edward 2017).  In addition, her leadership style at times hinted towards Elton Mayo’s Behavioral Theory, which states that employees demonstrate productivity when they are exposed to novel ideas and when they are motivated (Stahl 2016). The novel idea introduced by McCall was to attract business travelers to travel in the low-cost airline thus generating higher profits. Lopez (2014) argues that over the years, the gap between leadership and management has expanded making it difficult for business students to comprehend both areas clearly. McCall, however have been a leading example of combining managerial and leadership skills to attain positive outcomes. 


It is nonetheless a matter of deep evaluation whether she should be called a leader or a manager. Going by the recent events leading to her resignation as CEO and her accepting of a CEO’s post at ITV, it shows her impersonal relationship to EasyJet. A manager is the one who has an impersonal attitude towards the company. McCall grabbed the post of the Chief Executive Officer at ITV, a commercial broadcaster in January this year (BBC.com 2018). However, on several occasions, McCall displayed unrelenting dedication to bring the company from the bottom and take it to the top. She displayed immense enthusiasm and motivational skills to elevate her employee’s morale by personally visiting the airlines in different bases. It hence shows that McCall thought and acted like both a manager and a leader. It is also evident that McCall could have been the right person to carry on as EasyJet CEO for a few years more as she had maintained a steady growth even after minor jolts in the later years.

Despite the fact that her performance as the chief of EasyJet failed to garner huge profit post The New York Times article by Nicola Clark, her popularity remained undeterred. Nonetheless, the fact is that no technique works forever and similar was starting to show in McCall’s case. Every leader has to change his or her leadership style according to the needs of the era. McCall luckily did not have to face the scare of Brexit as she had announced her resignation only a month after the referendum. She was brave enough to face the wrath of her rivals and critics during the start of her journey at EasyJet but with Brexit, the case is entirely different and her techniques might not have been effective (Vial, Napier and Brescoll 2016).

Conclusion

In the end, it needs to be reiterated that Carolyn McCall carried the flag of female leadership with pride and integrity. She was undoubtedly an exemplary leader leading from the front to elevate her company as well as the aviation industry of British. In the report, the humble beginnings of her career at EasyJet, the company’s overview, its position before and after her arrival – all have been elaborated systematically. In addition, the report tried to produce a comparison between leadership and management styles and associate those to McCall’s style. Carolyn McCall belonged to an entirely different industry – the media industry – before entering the aviation industry. She however turned that disadvantage into advantage by employing the skills learnt in the media industry into the aviation industry. Her motive was to think from the perspective of a customer and apply strategies accordingly which worked brilliantly. The report also highlights different leadership theories and models to describe McCall’s tenure at EasyJet and reasons for her success. It has been mentioned that she demonstrated skills and qualities inherent to the Contingency and Transformational theories of leadership. In case of managerial skills, the report revealed close affinity of her style to that of Fayol’s administrative management theory and Mayo’s behavioral theory. In conclusion, it can be stated that the purpose was achieved to answer all the queries desired. 

References:

BBC.com 2018. EasyJet's Carolyn McCall heads to ITV. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-40628869 [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].

Brescoll, V.L., 2016. Leading with their hearts? How gender stereotypes of emotion lead to biased evaluations of female leaders. The Leadership Quarterly, 27(3), pp.415-428.

Corporate.easyjet.com (2018). Archive. [online] Corporate.easyjet.com. Available at: https://corporate.easyjet.com/investors/reports-and-presentations/archive [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].

Edward, R., 2017. An Elaboration of the Administrative Theory of the 14 Principles of Management by Henri Fayol.

Eichorn, F.L., 2017. Internal customer relationship management (IntCRM) a framework for achieving customer relationship management from the inside out. Management (open-access), 2, p.1.

Ft.com 2018. Carolyn McCall wins over critics in 7 years at easyJet. [online] Ft.com. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/985b8a82-6b05-11e7-bfeb-33fe0c5b7eaa [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].

Greer, C.R., Lusch, R.F. and Vargo, S.L., 2016. A service perspective. Organizational Dynamics, 1(45), pp.28-38.

Hbr.org 2018. Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2004/01/managers-and-leaders-are-they-different [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].

Ho, S.S., Li, A.Y., Tam, K. and Zhang, F., 2015. CEO gender, ethical leadership, and accounting conservatism. Journal of Business Ethics, 127(2), pp.351-370.

Lopez, R., 2014. The relationship between leadership and management: Instructional approaches and its connections to organizational growth. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 6(1), p.98.

Mendoza, L.R., Orea-Amador, L. and Kendall, M.R., 2016. Mixed Method Study of the Evolution of Leadership Traits during a Leadership Experience. In Proceedings of the 2016 ASEE Annual Conference and Exhibition.

Nytimes.com 2018. EasyJet Chief Leads Airline Through Turnaround. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/16/business/international/chief-of-easyjet-leads-airline-through-a-turnaround.html [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].

Stahl, C., 2016. Innovation Management: A Shifting Paradigm to Innovation Management Styles, Culture, and Strategies(Doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri--Kansas City).

Stein, L., 2016. Schools Need Leaders-Not Managers: It's Time for a Paradigm Shift. Journal of Leadership Education, 15(2).

Tate, G. and Yang, L., 2015. Female leadership and gender equity: Evidence from plant closure. Journal of Financial Economics, 117(1), pp.77-97.

Vial, A.C., Napier, J.L. and Brescoll, V.L., 2016. A bed of thorns: Female leaders and the self-reinforcing cycle of illegitimacy. The Leadership Quarterly, 27(3), pp.400-414.

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