Posted on 8th August 2010No Responses
Leadership style analysis using the four frames

The leadership style is fairly strong in all four frames.

Structure frame

People Express (PE) had been widely cited as the model of a highly innovative and successful business venture. Six Precepts of PE defined the base of the leadership structure of the company. These Precepts were the “check and balance” against which people could test their ideas and work. The Precepts allowed PE to mix strong leadership with freedom. Teams were created to be their own internal systems capable of making their own decisions but ruled by common objectives and the environment created by them. The leadership structure was innovative at that time. PE was to “become the leading institution for constructive change in the world.”

In addition, the “Six Key Concepts of Leadership” were created to help teams to become “individual power centers.”

Compensation was designed to complement the structure frame, thus providing incentives to achieve the best financial results for the company. Self-management and governance allowed employees to contribute to policy-level decision making; “to monitor and assess one’s own performance; to invent and execute activities to remedy performance problems, exploiting opportunities for improved performance; and to actively seek the information, resources and/or assistance needed to achieve the performance objectives.” Hierarchical structure was almost flat and consisted of three layers with the employees being highly cross-functional.

Human resource frame

PE’s approach was to cover people’s basic needs, like a “social safety net,” with salary and benefits. The flexible structure and cross-utilization provided a continuous learning environment. This provided staff with a variety of challenges, development and the use of their decision making skills.

The economic situation allowed PE to select the best people in the industry that would fit their organizational purpose and culture. Once hired, the company was committed to serve them. Internal opportunities were first open to all employees. More experienced employees were encouraged to teach the less experienced. Everything was done to ensure that people in PE could grow and develop.

PE created a “work hard, play hard” atmosphere. People would “live” at work, having fun doing the best job they could and seeing their team mates as friends.

Political frame

Donald Burr perceives himself as a “hard-nosed businessman”. He is certainly a man of power, chairing management teams and being the ultimate decision maker. Outside of the company Burr’s political talents were expressed in his ability to get financing to support the growth of PE. However, there are clear signs of past conflicts. For example, President Gerald Gitner resigned in March 1982, and Burr took over the presidency. Later, President Hap Pareti resigned PE disagreeing with the Frontier Airlines deal. Burr also had been described as “fearless” in the way he did business.

Symbolic frame

The first and the brightest symbol of the company is the name “People Express,” the company where people work together in a better way. PE’s practice of naming all its people “managers” shows the importance of taking initiatives and making decisions, thus distinguishing work at PE from just being a “job.” The Precepts of the company are also symbolic, in that they symbolize the structure and dynamics of the company.

“Burr spent a great deal of time in front of his people explaining the PE philosophy.”

“Attitude is as important as altitude” is the phrase that would show what kind of behavior is expected.

PE’s work space carried a lot of symbols. The Old New Jersey terminal had no ticket counters thus bringing staff and customers closer. The Corporate headquarters was stark. “People shared offices, and most of the decorations were PE advertisements, customer letters, and ‘hero charts’ ”. Burr himself did not have a private secretary and his office was used as a conference room when he was away. Burr used lots of symbols in Burr’s his presentations. For example, during one of his presentations, he was shown “shutting the door” and “sitting in a pair of shorts” and was “barefooted”.

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