Caroline McCall is early candidate for Leader of the Month

January 6, 2016

EasyJet’s Caroline McCall was appointed Dame in the New Year’s Honours list. Her latest honour is recognition for her services to industry as a business leader over a sparkling career

Most admired leader

Shortly before the award, McCall won recognition as ‘the most admired leader in Britain’.

According to the Telegraph [December 2 2015]:

The airline boss, who is one of just six female CEOs running a FTSE 100 company, is the first woman to secure the title in 25 years of the study, which is compiled by Management Today magazine.

“I hope that this will inspire more women, and that they will want to be in business and do it their way, be leaders of companies in their way,” said Ms McCall.

“Man or woman, it’s an honour to get an award like this. I’ve never underestimated how important it is to be a role model for women but I prefer to do that quietly rather than loudly.”

Easyjet and Earlier Achievements

Her new accolade draws on her success at building up the low-lost airline Easyjet, improving its customer services as well as profits. Her previous appointments have included CEO of the Guardian Media Group and membership of the boards of Tesco and the [then] Lloyds TSB.

LWD has followed her progress as a business leader in several earlier posts. A feature of her leadership style is considerable media skills. Listening to her in a radio interview in 2013 I was particularly impressed by a way of explaining her business without recourse to the business buzzwords that are written in to briefing documents by business schooled aides (OK, mea culpa on this one).

[Do send me your other nominations for January’s leader of the month. TR]




International tourism presents opportunities and threats to Zimbabwe and Zambia

May 1, 2012

Zimbabwe and Zambia are preparing for a tourist boost in 2013 when hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organization general assembly to be held against the magnificent backdrop of the Victoria Falls. The event poses considerable leadership dilemmas


Zambia and Zimbabwe share historical ties, having been part of the pre-independence Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland when Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia, Zambia as Northern Rhodesia.

A Coastweek report written from Harare outlines the challenges:

The country’s debt ridden airline, Air Zimbabwe Holdings, was disbanded by government last month and replaced by a new company Air Zimbabwe Pvt Limited that is yet to start operating [April 2012]. It would be ironic that the two countries that [having won] the bid to co-host the big event don’t have national airlines. It does not augur well for the hosts’ image nor for the growth of their tourism industries.

At least for Zimbabwe, chances of it having a running national airline are much better compared to Zambia whose national carrier collapsed three years ago. Air Zimbabwe has six planes, most of them old, but recently acquired an Airbus A320 plane for leasing as it moves to revamp its flagging fortunes.

More than 2000 delegates are expected to attend the event. Safari Operators of Zimbabwe president Emmanuel Fundira said recently that without a national airline, the country would lose the opportunity to capitalize on potential revenue.

Emirates Airlines started flying into Zimbabwe this year while the South African Airways has reportedly increased flights to fill in the void left by Air Zimbabwe. Air Namibia, is set to resume flights to Zimbabwe next month, flying into the country four times a week.

Siamese States?

There appears to be a level of political harmony between the two governments. In a visit to Zimbabwe [April 2012] President Sata of Zambia and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe likened their countries to Siamese twins because of their shared history.

Mr Mugabe also congratulated Zambia’s recent football success after the Chipolopolo boys won the 2012 African Nations Cup, using the same three words he used on his 88th birthday celebrations earlier this year to end his remarks.

“The Chipolopolo boys have brought us pride and glory of victory at the last contest of Africa Cup of Nations. Makorokoto, Amhlophe, Congratulations!”

A source close to events in the story told Leaders we deserve:

Mugabe has turned a bread basket into a failed state, through a leadership that believes in imposition of will. Zambia and others have seen power acquired through the barrel of the gun. Ghana Airways was established by Nkrumah soon after independence in 1958, was run by political appointees, and collapsed with debts of over $160m, not an inconsiderable sum for a small country. This is why routes in Africa which are still lucrative are milked by foreign airlines.

Dilemmas of leadership

The opportunities for tourism offered by the planned event are clear. The challenges are also evident from the state of travel infrastructure, and the fragile economies of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

BA backs the Bus and the Dreamliner

September 29, 2007


British Airways splits its future plane purchases between Boeing and Airbus. Although earlier statements suggested that the company was not interested in a Superjumbo sized carrier such as the new generation A380, Willie Walsh and his team show a chess-like grasp of strategy

Speculation in Seattle was pretty much right. A week before any official announcement, Industry insider James Wallace noted

The campaign is a key showdown between the A380 and 747-8 Intercontinental and the 787 and A350 . So far, only Lufthansa has ordered the passenger version of the 747-8. But Airbus also needs another major international customer to back the A380. It has repeat orders from Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, but Airbus has long sought to bring BA into the A380 fold.

Jefferies & Co. analyst Howard Rubel told the AP he believes investors are expecting British Airways to split its order between the two aerospace rivals.
“I think B.A. wants to bring a little competition into the mix,” he said.
BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh has visited Boeing and Airbus for briefings on their planes.
The airline recently ordered more 777s.
Even though British Airways early on said the A380 was too big for its needs, Walsh has said the airline is now interested in the big Airbus jet, which will enter airline service next month with Singapore Airlines after a two-year delay.

Wallace’s blog also attracted a remarkable set of speculations about the prospective decision. Most seemed to be based on ‘sources close to Boeing or BA’. The following was typical

Posted by unregistered user at 9/20/07 9:21 a.m.
I’ve heard 10 A380’s + options on 10 more , 20 787’s + 10 options and 10 A350’s + 10 options

When the news of the decision was formally announced it was widely replicated from news agency sources. I took this from The BBC, but found it on all the main news feeds.

BA will buy 12 Airbus A380 superjumbos and 24 Boeing 787s, to be delivered between 2010 and 2014, for a reported $8.2bn (£4.1bn). The group also has options to buy seven more A380s as well as a further 18 Dreamliners from Boeing.
Further negotiations will occur so that BA can replace its remaining 747-400s. This appears to be between the 787-10 and the 777-300 ER from Boeing, and the Airbus A350

The Boeing reaction was between gritted teeth:

The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] is honored that British Airways has selected the 787 Dreamliner as a key element of its long-haul fleet renewal

What’s going on?

Leadership geeks may be tempted to see unfolding a story of strategic leadership. If so, it is a story which has to place leadership with a wide cast of strategic players. We may start by thinking of Willie Walsh as the dominant decision-maker in the story, with some billion pounds/dollars to invest in the future of his company.

The evidence of Mr Walsh’s leadership style suggests that he will have been very active in the processes building up to the decision, internal to British Airways. At present we can only speculate. However, the decision has enormous significance. It will impact on the travelling lives of millions of people some more directly than others. Arguably it will impact on the future of employees of Boeing, EADS, and a myriad of suppliers and sub-contractors including Rolls Royce who will supply the engines. At another level, the debate on political influence and subsidies to Airbus and Boeing continues to bubble away.

However charismatic and autocratic his leadership style, Walsh will have been flying in tricky conditions and with a chief pilot’s usual near-overload of advice and chatter. Advisors, and advisors of advisors will have examined assorted risk assessments from in and outside BA into which data will have been fed from numerous sources. Somewhere in these the influence of various governments and global institutions will have been factored in, as well as the much-publicised production delays at Airbus and more recently at Boeing for the A380 and B787 projects. Willie Walsh keeps sane by following what the great Herbert Simon called satisficing, or simplifying the decision through a set of personal mental filters.

In an avalanche of articles and books since the 1950s, Simon ..focused much of his attention on the issue of decision-making – and [developed his theory of ] “bounded rationality”. Agents, he claims, face uncertainty about the future and costs in acquiring information in the present. Thus .. they have only “bounded rationality” and are forced to make decisions not by “maximization” by “satisficing”, i.e. setting an aspiration level which, if achieved, they will be happy enough with, and if they don’t, try to change either their aspiration level or their decision.

I have taken the view that such processes are those which chess-players also have to make. In this chess-game, BA wants to avoid fixing the position, when there is much to be said for keeping options open. So the overall decision on replacing the fleet of aging 747 400s may or may not have been made. It makes sense to keep options open, even to the extent of splitting up the decision between the two giant contenders for the business. That is partly why decisions also involve options as well as firm commitments.

Those with a liking for logistics theory can debate the merits of smaller planes and P2P (point to point) strategy, and larger ones with a Hub-based strategy. Whatever.

A judicious mix of planes of differing size keeps both strategic options open. A judicious mix of ‘top-down’ leadership actions, and ‘data driven’ analysis may also be appropriate.