Deconstructing Leadership: Guts!

The primary thesis of the book Guts surrounds the idea of a leader with guts creating an organization where everyone is responsible and everyone is accountable. Woven throughout the success stories of companies ranging from SAS to Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines to Synovus is the premise that if an employee is given the opportunity to be productive he or she will take ownership of the organization. The relevance of Guts to the study of strategic leadership is dependent on how true the anecdotal research of the companies described in the book holds across a broader spectrum of business. Despite the fact that a closer and more scientific research method should be forth coming, the possibilities raised by the authors must not be taken lightly.

The potential of good leadership with guts rests in the suggestion that people act like owners. Successful owners are equipped, encouraged, and expected to do so. No matter what a person does for a living, one must be equipped to get the job done. Leaders require special equipment. Leaders must have common sense, intellect, a sense of fair play, and a can do attitude. The aforementioned may seem like small items but when it comes to making decisions that affect employees, they are enormous requirements.

Leadership Begins with Vision

Southwest Airlines an icon in the airline industry highlights the innovative ideas created by Herb Kelleher and CEO Colleen Barrett. The huge strides and success were due in part to the CEO’s foresight. She saw the future of the industry falling and decided to take action. Colleen Barrett had a can do attitude and believed that the company could soar above all others; she was right. Good leadership has vision and the ability to make that vision a reality

We All Need A Little Common Sense

Common sense came into play when all other airlines were laying-off employees and cutting back flights because of 9/11/01. Southwest saw this as an opportunity. The climate was such that people were scared to fly. However, traveler fear did not lessen the need to fly. Why other airlines did not plan for a catastrophe speaks to airline industry’s lack of prudence and highlights Southwest Airline’s gutsy leadership vision. Good leadership recognizes impending demand and begin the onslaught into areas of need.

Intelligence and Talent

Intelligence is always required of leaders. Leaders must be able to make decision spontaneously while considering all the mitigating factors that play into that decision. Southwest airlines considered the ramifications of lay-offs and expansion. Their decision had to be made precise and swift. During 911, flights were grounded, the airlines were in shock, and none could visualize how the competition would resume. Southwest saw the trouble the other airlines were having and implemented a gutsy approach. Tremendous amounts of planning and logistics were taken into consideration in a short amount of time. The decisions made exemplify the amount of expertise and intelligence the leadership of Southwest had at its disposal. These leaders were well equipped. Talented people do extraordinary things. Good Leadership is addicted to great talent.

Above All, Be Fair

Leadership must have sense of fair play. Good leaders seem to all have a sense of propriety and play by the rules. Conversely, during the election cycle, one will see politicians going after political opponents in a less than appropriate manner. Many political figures seem to have no sense of fair play. The electorate is fed up with this type of hardball politics. On the other hand, Southwest airlines never felt the need to bad mouth their competition with some rude commercial saying, do not fly with them, they lay people off. Good leadership stands on principles and merit continuing with their agenda without defacing others.

Stay Encouraged

Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher provides examples of how people are encouraged by a gutsy management style. The leadership at Southwest introduced a rare management style that involves liking their employees, making the customer happy, and making sure that everyone involved with the company knows company strategy (Freiberg 2004). Colleen Barrett encouraged those that worked for Southwest airlines by asking for input from every employee from pilots to baggage handlers. Each employee felt as if they had a say in the operation and believed the success of the airline rested on them. Barrett also encouraged her employees to create an atmosphere of fun for not only themselves but also the passengers. Barrett’s wisdom in making Southwest Airlines a fun place to work lends credibility to the studies that show happy employees are more productive and more loyal (p.47).


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