This following study will attempt to convey to its reader the successful and often innovative manner in which Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly leads his team. He is a man often seen by "outsiders" as being eccentric, to say in the least. The case study seeks to illustrate the importance of acknowledging, redefining and encouraging true cultural growth within an organization. Moreover, it will demonstrate how this "mastery" of personality traits and cultural development can- and does- bring about undeniably high levels of job satisfaction in a firm's "family..." and enormous profit margins in its inherent business scope.
The story of Mr. Kelly and Southwest was new to this researcher. Much like would be the case for a fully vetted and screened juror with no prior knowledge of- say, a high profile crime case- the assigned research here was conducted with no pre-conceived notions or judgments. This open-ended approach to the case study of Gary Kelly and Southwest Airlines revealed the fascinating story of a man who led a commercial airliner to the top with a highly energetic, fluid and innovative style of leadership. Under the leadership of Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines grew to phenomenal levels of success, while fostering a genuine environment among its employees of cultural commitment and a resulting demonstrable overall success for the company.
Before analyzing the Southwest Airlines data, it is important that some basic terms are explored and defined. For example, what exactly is culture in a corporation? It can be best explained as the perceptions of employees and how they affect the overall view of those working for a firm. As explained in the text, Organizational Behavior and Management, these perceptions have "worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems (Ivancevich/Konopaske/Matteson, 2012)." The relevance of this culture- and its implications- to the savvy Chief Executive Officer, or CEO, quickly becomes clear when the strategic value of this perceived "state of affairs" is made central to the operation. After all, the CEO is the strategic planner for the company. As a U.S. Air Force leadership manual eloquently states, "strategic leaders have the best perspective, because of their position in the organization, to see
the dynamics of the culture, what should remain, and what needs transformation. This is the essence of strategic success (af.mil, 2013)."
Of appropriate consideration would be, of course, the firm's stated vision or mission statement. On its own website, Southwest describes the key to a company's success as being attributed to culture, or "the development, improvement, and refinement of the originality, individuality, identity, and personality of a given people (southwest.com, 2014)," This refreshingly upbeat mission statement is only a small example of how Southwest, under Kelly's leadership, has made the firm one where its cultural composition is the baseline for success and excitement for all of it employees. In fact, the parameters of success- as outlined in the textbook-are all clearly and positively affected by the ethos of cultural celebration. These include productivity measures, efficiency, employee satisfaction and an ability of the firm to adapt (Ivancevich/Konopaske/Matteson, 2014).