The Qantas lockout: What is it with Leaders of Airlines?

October 31, 2011

Qantas announces a lockout of its employees in a move reminiscent of recent British Airways disputes. The so-called legacy airlines seem to be prone to legacy labour relations

With no prior warnings to passengers, the long-running dispute at Qantas erupted into a world-wide lock out over the weekend [Oct 29-30th 2011]. All flights were grounded, leaving many international passengers stranded.

The Leadership decision

As the fury of employees and stranded passengers grew, CEO Alan Joyce defended the need for the action as a response to a protracted industrial dispute with its employees. Hopes for an early return to the air rested with an industrial tribunal hearing at Fair Work Australia (FWA). Richard Woodwood, Vice President of the Australian & International Pilots’ Union, described the decision to lockout all pilots as insane and arrogant.

Fair Work Australia intervenes

The independent arbitration authority, Fair Work Australia (FWA) quickly ruled against the lockout:

On the surface of things, the [FWA] ruling looks like a humiliation for Qantas CEO Alan Joyce as his airline is ordered back into the skies – having been unilaterally grounded by the airline’s management. But it could in fact be a strategic victory [for Mr Joyce]. Having failed to get the main unions at Qantas (baggage handlers, engineers and pilots) to engage in meaningful talks since a massive restructuring plan was announced in August, Qantas’s warring sides have now been ordered by the FWA tribunal to do exactly that.

FWA has in effect locked the company and its unions in until such time as they come up with a long term solution to their awful industrial relations record. While it may be a strategic victory, it certainly won’t be a financial one for Qantas. Each day that the planes were grounded cost it £13m. That’s on top of the £48m that the strikes since August have cost. But the reputation damage inflicted by this dispute on Qantas could be very profound and way more expensive.

The strategic direction of Qantas remains towards East Asia. Its wholly owned subsidiary Jetstar, based in Vietnam and Singapore, is the model for future growth. Jetstar is more profitable per customer than Qantas.

The British Airways disputes

In leadership style there are similarities with dramas played out at British Airways which Leaders we deserve posts have tracked. These also involved industrial disputes and confrontation between CEO Willie Walsh and the company’s unions.

Airlines new and old

Commentators have labelled the troubles at BA and Qantas as Legacy difficulties. Older State airlines such as BA and Qantas have been unable to restructure and negotiate with employees in a way that retained competitiveness against younger market entries such as Emirates.

The problems with ‘tough’ leadership

‘Tough’ leadership has tended to be the strategy of choice. Willie Walsh was brought in to BA to apply just such an approach based on his previous track record. The dilemma facing such leaders appears to be one which requires such a leadership style to avert economic ruin from continuing with an uneconomic business model. Incidentally, there are more similarities between the backgrounds of the two leaders, both of whom have Irish roots, and cvs showing links with the Irish airline industry. It takes only a leap of imaginatiuon to presume that Willie Walsh may have been directly or indirectly approached during the head-hunting prior to the appointment of AlanJoyce.

According to game theory, the leaders of Qantas and of its employee unions seem to be locked in, not out, to a mutual destruction strategy.

Leadership theorists point to the dangers of such ‘either-or’ thinking, and by implication the need for more creative behaviours.

Ireland elects Michael D Higgins ‘to rock in the Dáil’

October 29, 2011

Ireland has elected veteran Labour politican Michael D Higgins as its President. The Saw Doctors provided an unusual note in an unusual campaign.

‘Michael D Michael D, up on his bikele D, Michael D Michael D rocks in the Dáil’ [Dáil rhymes with boil: Ed, LWD]

You can read a more prosaic account of the campaign and its swings in fortune in the Scotsman’s report [19 Oct 2011]:

A former lecturer in sociology and politics at University College Galway, Mr Higgins benefited from his standing as one of Ireland’s most liked and instantly recognisable politicians. During an often bad-tempered campaign, Higgins stayed above the fray and his record on human rights, in particular, won plenty of admirers. The next president is also one of Ireland’s strongest critics of US foreign policy.

Within hours of his election his moving acceptance speech belayed the suggestion that ‘Michael D.’ would be merely a figurehead, lacking in ideas and charisma. As the link indicates, his opposition to the ‘years of the Celtic tiger’ even won the Labour politician the approval of the English Daily Mail.

To go more deeply

The swings in the campaign are also covered in the post-election review from the BBC. Leaders we deserve [Sept 19th 2011] has also examined how charismatic candidates were adding spice to the campaign.

Mick McCarthy gets mad

October 28, 2011

Mick McCarthy, manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, lost his temper at the behaviour of the club’s fans as his team was fighting back to avoid a fifth consecutive loss

It was a match that Wolves fans must have targeted as one to break a dismal losing streak. The opponents [20th Oct 2011] were Swansea City, newly promoted to the Premier League, and yet to win away from home.

Dreams were dashed

Wolves dreams were dashed within the first half as Swansea out-battled them and cruised into a 2-0 lead. There was little sign of a recovery as the second half developed. The Wolves fans, traditionally passionate and faithful, began to leave. Others began barracking their own team, and above all the manager.

The substitutions and the turn-round

McCarthy changed the pattern of play with two substitutions. The plan seemed to work, and Wolves scored. Then deep into the game they snatched an equalizer.

The post-match interview

At the post-match interview, The manager was visibly angry. He chose not to reveal the origins of his anger. This of itself was unusual. He has earned a reputation of the almost stereotyped no-nonsense, blunt-speaking Yorkshire man.

Later he spoke bitterly of the ‘mindless’ fans who booed him.

“I almost think some turn up hoping it is going to be that way so they can have their whinge and get shot of the manager. They are not going to get shot of the chairman or the players, so it’s a case of, ‘Let’s give it to the gaffer’.

I’ve done a great job here. I came five years ago, there were only 10 players here and just a million quid to spend. Five years on, we are in our third year in the Premier League and building the new stadium – but we are having a tough time. Come on, give the lads a bit of support. Don’t be giving us aggravation. I think they have short memories.”

The burdens of leadership

The burdens of leadership were pinpointed by McCarthy. You get credit if you succeed. You get the blame if things go wrong.
Within days, a former England team manager (Sven-Goran Eriksson) was fired. He had been brought in to rescue an under-performing club, Leicester City. His dismissal was widely judged to have been too soon for him to have put in place the needed changes to the team’s play. This was a clearer example of the image or reputation clouding the judgments of the Board, both in his hiring and his firing.


Within a week [Nov 26th 2011] Wolves faced the might on Manchester City who, having beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford 1-6, almost repeated the scoreline 2-5 at Molineaux [historic home stadium of the Wolves], and less emphatically, 3-1 [home, at Eastlands, Nov 29th 2011]. Enough to take my breath away

Take my breath away

U-tube above of Mick McCarthy, lyrics are “Take My Breath Away“, backing by Berlin, Top Gun soundtrack, available from iTunes

IBM appoints Virginia Rometty as CEO

October 26, 2011

And now there are two…female leaders of great IT corporations

Viginia Rometti will become the first female chief executive officer in IBM’s 100-year history on Jan 1st [2012]. She will succeed Sam Palmisano who has been CEO since 2002, and will remain chairman.

In a month which has seen the appointment of Meg Whitman brought in as an outsider at Hewlett Packard, we now have the IBM ‘lifer’ in charge of a second US corporate giant.

To go more deeply

Virginia Rometty to head IBM as first female chief executive

Rometti knows IBM is one mistake from obselescence

IBM’s Rometty just kept on rising

10 CEOs in the making: Virginia Rometti

Carte Blanche. The rewriting of a superhero

October 25, 2011

Not a review of Carte Blanche, Jeffery Deaver’s reincarnation of Ian Fleming’s James Bond

Readers of any Bond story expect to find reference to much-loved and hated characters. There must be some hi-tech spy gimmicks for escaping and killing. There must also be a mastermind villain plus mastermind villain’s dreadful and evil plan which Bond has to thwart.

The ultimate Carte Blanche

Then there is the Bond antagonist who attempts but ultimately fails to kill Bond, and a few supermodel Bond babes for sexual, if transient, encounters in luxurious settings. Touches of sadistic violence and high fantasy are arguably also essential. Finally, we have Bond’s famous Licence to Kill, the ultimate Carte Blanche.

The challenge

The challenge is compounded through the success of the Bond films. The movie Bond might be considered authentic – even if the authenticity is based on a re-working of a fictional original, a simulacrum as the post-modernists like to say.

Icons and iconoclasts

Deaver risks accusations of heresy against a sacred belief. A militant army of Bond aficionados is ready to take up arms against false prophets…

The biggest challenge

The author has tricky creative decisions to make. What are ‘must leave in’ items? What are ‘affordable omissions’? What are ‘something extra’ items? Any new Bond has to be true to the mythology which is now thoroughly accepted through the superhero of the Bond films.

New Bond

Deaver sticks to a hero consistent with that to be found in the films, and arguably with the Bond in Fleming’s books. His Bond remains resourceful, courageous, a style icon, sexually voracious but with updating of his habits and attitudes. He has avoided the tempting ideas of producing a black Bond or a female Bond or a Gender-bending Bond.

No spoiler here

I won’t reveal the plot. The story does have the requisite components outlined above. When I checked by re-reading Fleming’s Casino Royale I was surprised at the patchiness of the writing and the level of sadism in the original. Carte Blanche is far less dark.

If you like Jeffery Deaver …

I felt the author had to sacrifice a bit too much of his own authentic style in his efforts at sticking to the old Bond format. But If you like Jeffery Deaver, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Obama’s Obituary for Gadaffi and justification for his ‘leading from behind’ policy

October 21, 2011

President Obama offered an obituary on Muammar Gaddafi which permits reflection on American foreign policy of “leading from behind”. It indicates the dilemmas of leadership within the context of the death of a political enemy

The snippet of his speech above also provides links to various other videos of the President and Colonel Gadaffi.

Mardell’s analysis for the BBC

Mark Mardell of the BBC offered a thoughtful critique of President Obama’s foreign policy based on his speech which had been made within hours of Gadaffi’s capture and death. Mardell speculated on why the President spoke as he did. It indicates the dilemmas of leadership within the context of the death of political enemy. What follows is an abbreviated version of his analysis:

Gaddafi’s death will be a relief to President Obama and his administration. That’s on the fairly simple grounds that he backed NATO action, called for him to go, and now he’s gone. In an awkward phrase, coined by an anonymous official, the policy was “to lead from behind.”

The road that led us to this day tells us a lot about Barack Obama’s foreign policy as a whole, and its sometimes uncomfortable mix of idealism and realism. [This policy] is driven by a sense that, particularly in the Arab world, the US must step back a pace, not be seen as a bully, always hectoring or imposing its will using physical force.

Even though they didn’t shout about it from the rooftops, American forces were deeply involved. The total cost to the US so far stands at just over $1bn. Without American involvement behind the scenes it probably couldn’t have been done.

A good deal of muddle

The perception of the American position wasn’t all deliberate. There really was a good deal of muddle. As so often Obama took a while to decide what to do. Crucial allies like the UK and France were kept in the dark as some argued for intervention to prevent a humanitarian crisis, while others said that America could not afford, in any sense, another military adventure in the Arab world.

Fear of moral failure

In the end it was fear of being judged a moral failure that drove the decision. The president was told that thousands could die in a massacre in Benghazi and he wasn’t going to be held responsible for that.

But if President Obama’s policy has been a success on its own terms, it leaves others in the US deeply worried. They don’t think their country should encourage, cajole, help and guide. They think it should [be seen] to lead in fact and in deed. There are others who think that backing the people in the Arab world, however quietly, is paving the way for jihadist regimes that will be hostile to American interests.

Dilemmas of leadership

Students of leadership may find it instructive to takes these seven short paragraphs and make sense of them by identifying the dilemmas facing President Obama as he offered his public statement on the capture and death of his political enemy.

The English edition of Aljazeera summarised quotes from around the world. The article concluded with the words of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress:

“Libyans are safer now after Gaddafi’s death and the Arab world is breaking free. But never celebrate death of anyone, even bad people.”

Teresa Amabile talks on Leadership, Employee engagement and The Performance Principle

October 18, 2011

Professor Teresa Amabile summarises fifteen years of research into creative leadership in terms of her concept of the progress principle

Creativity researchers consider Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School as the most distinguished and influential researcher into creativity of her generation. Her recent book with husband Steve Kramer distils this into The Progress Principle. The TED video captures the evidence reported in the book.

How creative leadership makes a difference

In productive organisations it is the everyday actions of managers and co-workers which made the difference. In unproductive organisations there is a risk-aversion and fear of making mistakes. On the contrary in productive organisations, mistakes are lived with ‘as long as we learned from what we did’.

Inner work life

For long-term development, inner work-life is supported and reinforced by everyday interpersonal exchanges. “Support people and support their processes every day” Amabile argues.

The unobserved progress principle

Most managers do not think consciously of the importance of small wins. [I have a recollection of such a point being made within the new leadership literature, but more typically leaders we more influenced by the virtues of setting ‘great hairy goals’ and inspiring visions.]


However, an organisational crisis may release great organisational, team and individual creativity. A crisis and positive leadership support can work but “You can’t just turn this on and off”.

What can you do?

“Think what you can do to help co-workers feel good about what they are doing”. [Catch someone doing something good]. A simple and effective principle we can all apply at work.

We are all creative leaders

When I updated Dilemmas of Leadership earlier this year, I introduced one additional chapter. It examined creative leadership. I selected Teresa’s contributions as a core example of a shared ‘Platform of Understanding’ in the field. The Progress Principle was published just a few months too late for inclusion in the chapter. It is just about the first amendment for a future edition. It implicitly supports writings on distributed leadership, and enriches our maps of creativity and engagement in the workplace.

“No transactional advantage…” What did Liam Fox mean by that?

October 16, 2011

The phraseology “no transactional advantage” was used by Defence secretary Liam Fox this week in his address to the House of Commons. It caused much debate and puzzlement among commentators. We look at it from the perspectives of motivation and leadership theories

The political story in the UK this month [Oct 2011] has been that of a relationship between Liam Fox and his close personal friend Adam Werritty. The media and opposition politicians sensed inappropriate behaviour and possibly financial malpractices.

Fox attempted to deal with his critics by a statement to the House of Commons of less than crystal clarity. Mr Werritty, he stated, was “not dependent on any transactional behaviour to maintain his income

Bill and Monica?

For want of a better explanation, some critics connected it with Bill Clinton’s wriggling over his relationship with Monica Lewinski, and whether he had ‘had sex with that woman’. Fox, it was presumed, was selecting his words so cautiously because he was unable to give a straightforward answer to a straightforward question.

Or was it Business School speak?

Another reading is that Dr Fox had begun speaking in tongues, and particularly in Business School speak. As every MBA is taught, transactional behaviour is the posh term for a leadership style found when a leader operates mainly my simple arrangements involving economic expectations (“If you do that for me, I’ll do that for you”). A more popular term is carrot-and-stick leadership.

New leadership and its transformational style

A leader relying on transactional behaviour was found to severely limit the possibility for influencing others through motivating and inspiring them. That according to new leadership theory required a transformational style. So, Dr Fox might be interpreted as saying “Adam Werritty did what he did out of loyalty to me, influenced solely by my transformational leadership skills.

Transformational gambit or Lewinski defence?

So we have two ways of interpreting the mysterious statement made by Liam Fox. The one might be based the offering of the transformational gambit. The other is a variation on Bill Clinton’s Lewinski defence. “There were no financial exchanges between that man and me.”

Lewinski gambit accepted and refuted

A few days later, it was the Lewinski gambit which was accepted and refuted. The Telegraph account summarised what happened:

The Defence Secretary announced that he was resigning [15th Oct 2011] after disclosures showed Mr Werritty’s activities were funded by companies and individuals that potentially stood to benefit from Government decisions.
Within an hour of Dr Fox stepping down, the venture capitalist Jon Moulton, who provided money for Mr Werritty, said the Defence Secretary had asked him to give cash to his friend’s firm. It is understood that an investigation into Dr Fox’s dealings with Mr Werritty by Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, had concluded that his position was untenable.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Fox repeated his belief that he had “mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my Government activities to become blurred”.

The Rugby World Cup: Will it be 1966 or 1066 for Wales?

October 14, 2011

triple-crown-2008.jpg60,000 Welsh rugby fans pack the Millenium stadium to watch a match being played 12,000 miles away between Wales and France. The talk is of the glory days of the 1970s, and matching the forty years of celebrations after England’s 1966 World Cup triumph against Germany

A little history

To mark the event we have reproduced a LWD post written a few years ago. It records the story of Warren Gatland, now in charge of the Welsh team in its quest for glory in New Zealand.

The Original Post (2008)

In Welsh rugby, the New Zealand connection runs deep. Yesterday’s Triple Crown battle was framed as Warren Gatland coaching Wales, against Eddie O’ Sullivan, who succeeded Gatland as coach of Ireland. Yesterday’s match against Ireland was billed as a grudge match between the coaches, the very Irish O’ Sullivan, and the very non-Welsh Warren Gatland.

The start of a legend

Where to start the story? A few years ago Graham Henry came to Wales as coach. Henry went back to his native New Zealand to build a team expected to walk to victory in the World cup in 2007 but who failed to meet expectations.

Enter Graham Henry

A few months before this season’s competition, the much-maligned Welsh rugby selectors turned to another would-be rescuer from across the seas. The man created hope. He created more than hope. He created Ospraylia, a new country of dreams around the Mumbles, the hills overlooking the Mumbles Bay, and the sleep-steeped Dylan Thomas town of Swansea. His creation was based on The Ospreys, its newly created provincial rugby team.

Out of Osprey land he called forth a team of warriors, with just a few other recruits from the distant city state of Cardiff. The army marshaled against the Irish was as follows

Wales [Osprayia]: L Byrne (Ospreys); M Jones (Scarlets), T Shanklin (Blues), G Henson (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), AW Jones (Ospreys), J Thomas (Ospreys), M Williams (Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).
Replacements: G Williams (Blues), D Jones (Ospreys) for A. Jones (72), I Evans (Ospreys), G Delve (Gloucester) for R. Jones (75), D Peel (Scarlets), J Hook (Ospreys) for S. Jones (65), S Parker (Ospreys).

Gatland had hit on an old idea, which worked brilliantly. He created a brotherhood. The dream was both new, and as old as the Celtic myths of leaders who took their armies across the Irish Sea to do battle. And so it was that the warriors from Osraylia walked calmly on to another great place of battle, Croke park, where Ireland were held to be huge favourites.

The Battle

The battle was fierce. After fifty minutes ,the teams were level at 6-6. A ferocious start from the Irish had been fought off. The Ospraylians, althoughdrilled to overcome past errors of indiscipline, twice lost men banished from the fray for their misdeeds. Even then they clung on.

The Decisive Blow

The decisive blow came with a scampering try from Shane Williams, the smallest man on the field. Williams had been struggling to avoid contact with full-size Irish defenders throughout, but he managed that one glory run on adrenaline-enriched fuel and fear. Ospraylia were ahead.

After that it was trench warfare in mud and rain. But the Irish could make no headway. Two minutes of grunt and scrabble ended it. Not a great match. But a great result and a great story.

The Independent View

The Independent returned to the tale of two coaches

In four victories Warren Gatland has transformed the rabble that was once the Dragonhood into a unit who have competitive steel to match the talent that has lain untapped for far too long. Of course, there was some personal revenge being wreaked on the nation that dispensed of Gatland’s services so abruptly six years ago, not to mention on the ambitious assistant who took his job. But when he claimed that “this was not about me and Eddie [O’Sullivan]” it was difficult not to see his point. Wales have found Warren, Warren has found Wales and this love affair will run and run.

The love affair lasted

And as in all legends, the story never ended. Three years later, Gatland had replaced many of his original warriers with new young players for their place in Rugby history, possibly against the New Zealand All Blacks, coached by, (who else) Warren Gatland. The film rights are already being lined up for another Invictus.

Postscipt: it was 1066 and all that

The semi-final made wonderful drama which ended in France winning by one point. Wales had played for most of the match with great spirit and skill, but with fourteen men, having lost their Captain through a controversial refereeing decision. The film may not now be made, but the story will be added to Welsh Rugby mythology.

Leadership Lessons from Lady Gaga

October 11, 2011

by Dr Dina Williams

Lady Gaga Poker Face

She causes controversy, her music is might not be your cup of tea but it is certain that you will be familiar with the girl from the Lower East Side of New York who in a few short years transformed herself from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta into one of the world’s best-known musical performers

Who we are talking about? Lady Gaga, of course

She blasted to the stratosphere of music industry with her first album The Fame, the best-selling debut album of 2009. Her single, Poker Face, is the most downloaded tune in the history of U.K. digital music.

Music icon plus

She is not only a music icon but an iconic business model from which corporate leaders can learn a few lessons. According to a recent article in The Economist, Lady Gaga has what Anderson, Reckhenrich and Kupp call “leadership projection“. This is a concept in which communication, behaviour and aspiration are integrated to provide a leader with wide recognition across an industry or sphere of public life.

Leadership projection is very much about attracting followers. The authors believe that her ability to build emotional commitment in those she leads is a capacity of increasing value in today’s business world. Financial Times summarising the case study puts her business success down to knowing how to use social media:

“She is the first living person to achieve 10 million fans on Facebook, which has grown by a further 2 million in a fortnight; she has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter; she is the first currently producing music artist to reach one billion YouTube views…Currently ‘Lady Gaga’ is searched 151,000,000 times a month.”

She has an instinctive understanding of how to handle social media and digital platforms. Forbes states:

“She is directing every frame of her music and her life, imagining how clips will appear on YouTube and what people will tweet after she appears on the VMAs.”

She likes her fans and they like her back

An industry insider is quoted as saying: “Maybe Gaga points a way to the future – to make your fans your trusted friends. After all, who steals from friends?” She constantly engages with her fans creating a feeling of ‘friendship’ which is reinforced by pet-naming her fans Monsters thereby familiarising them and creating a definite loyalty to her brand.

In an interview with Stephen Fry she says:“Well actually, I sent them hot chocolate yesterday, and macaroons, and then today I had the press all day and I felt a bit bad because I wouldn’t have much of a chance to go down and say hello. But I did manage to go down and brought them some fresh cookies and flowers”. She even named her second album “Fame Monsters”

She builds on others’ fame

Lady Gaga does not do feuds, and happily shares her platform with potential “rivals”. She has teamed up with Madonna, Beyoncé, Elton John. According to Forbes she “leverages buzz” by sharing the limelight with other, mightier entertainment brands than her own. She admits the influence in her work of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Michael Jackson, Prince and others.

She is the brand

Lady Gaga does not endorse brands. Instead she creates new products in companies that have asked her to come on board. The objects with which she is identified are bounded by her own values. The latest news is that she is now a creative director at Polaroid, introducing to the market a range of innovative products of Polaroid’s Grey Label line, their flagship range including sunglasses which take pictures and technology that allows you to print photos directly from your mobile.