In this era of globalization, sustainable development, ethical business practices and Corporate Social Responsibility is the need of the hour. Perhaps the best example of a contemporary organization that has used these principles effectively is Southwest Airlines. McGee-Cooper, Trammell, & Looper (2008) describes how Colleen Barrett, a leader at Southwest works passionately with her followers by holding herself accountable to their needs and creating a supportive environment for them. She leads selflessly by encouraging a strong spirit of service, caring for her employees, and creating an engaged and inspired workforce thereby ensuring that all the employees participate towards sustainable business practices. She believes in the golden rule to “treat others as you want to be treated” which has resulted in success for Southwest. They put their employees first, so that they can then be focused on customer satisfaction. Southwest recognizes that employees are at the heart of their business, and by putting their needs first, they are creating an environment that will encourage a strong spirit and desire for followers to bring their best into the workplace every day (Moss, 2006). The mission and the vision of the organization can be highlighted as:
To become the world's most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline. The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.
The vision states that the airlines wants to be most loved organization across the globe and this could not be possible without the focus on sustainable development.
The Southwest Airlines uses the servant leadership model to practice sustainable development. By embracing servant leadership, companies are able to instill teams that are committed to productivity and product development (Hamideh & Mahmood, 2012). When followers feel that leadership cares about their needs, they are more willing to work hard and seek out innovative solutions to tackle challenges in their industries. Growth in modern business involves a balance between employee satisfaction and motivation, customer satisfaction, and financial performance as well (Melchar & Bosco, 2010). Without a detailed focus on all of these elements, companies will often fall short when seeking to differentiate and dominate their respective industries.
The CEO Gary Kelly sees his employees as “the single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage." The employees of Southwest are always giving back to the community and have initiated the Heart of the community program in 2014 to promote social, economic, and wellness initiatives throughout communities (Southwest Airlines, 2016). It is interesting to study the way Southwest Airlines treats its employees. The leaders and management of Southwest Airlines consider its employees as the partners of sustainable development. Southwest Airlines treats there employees. By focusing on their needs, they create an environment in which the employees want to focus more on creating better relationships with customers, because there needs are being met first. They create a genuine and positive experience in which they care more about the customers because they have more respect for the company that they work for. When considering a change in leadership with a struggling organization that is suffering with negative brand repercussions, servant leadership is a natural fit to turn the page and create a better environment for followers and customers as well.
As far as the framework is considered, Southwest Airlines used triple bottom line framework of sustainable development. With this framework, Southwest Airlines wants to focus collectively on profit, people and planet. The company realizes that focus on profit will be good for the company in sort term only. The long term development of the organization will depend on the focus given on other two parameters of this model, planet and people. The way this model is being used by Southwest Airlines can be shown as:
The management of Southwest Airlines has complete trust on its employees. The leaders at the organization believes that sustainable development can not be achieved without the support of employees. South West Airlines (SWA) organization, reviewed Employee ideas for recognition and celebration. The flexible work rules enabled Employees to perform many different jobs as members of teams. For example, Pilots could handle baggage if the situation demanded it (Moss, 2016). SWA also supported Ronald McDonald House Charities for sick children and their families a servant leadership characteristic to build communities. Circuit City example of bad leadership that laid off thousands of high-performing, seasoned workers in favor of inexperienced, "cheaper" employees.. Circuit City's lack of happy, motivated employees who could provide exemplary customer service left the company with no edge over its many rivals.
It is expected that Southwest Airlines would continue on the path of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. When contemporary organizations take an interest and investment in their employees, then that attitude is infused within the employees and spreads within the work environment. A feeling of a 'family' atmosphere grows among the associates and they learn to work, play and pray as a family would and stand beside each other to always make sure each person is taken care of including the success of the organization.
The company also believes that the path of sustainable development cannot be achieved without being ethical in nature. In the last 20 years, Southwest Airlines has transformed itself and it has emerged as one of the most ethical company across the world. It is expected that the transformation towards the sustainable development would continue and Southwest Airlines would emerge as a more strong organization in future.
Hamideh, S., & Mahmood Zare, N. Promoting Leadership Effectiveness in Organizations: A Case Study on the Involved Factors of Servant Leadership. (International Journal Of Business Administration, 3(1), 54-65, 2012)
McGee-Cooper, A., Trammell, D., & Looper, G. The Power of LUV: An Inside Peek at the Innovative Culture Committee of Southwest Airlines. (Reflections, 9(1), 49-54, 2008)
Melchar, D. E., & Bosco, S. M. Achieving High Organization Performance through Servant Leadership. Journal Of Business Inquiry: (Research, Education & Application, 9(1), 74-88, 2010)
Moss, D. (Brewing a Better Business. HR Magazine, 61(2), 46-48, 2016)
Southwest Airlines. (About Southwest, retrieved from https://www.southwest.com/html/about-southwest/index.html?int= , 2016)
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