Case study: Charismatic leadership qualities of Norton


With the help of examples, describe the charismatic leadership qualities of Norton in the company throughout the case. What dysfunctional aspect of charismatic leadership was displayed by Norton in Part 2 of the case?

1.1    Charismatic leadership qualities of Norton

As leadership is the relationship between the leaders and the followers, the charismatic leadership qualities of Norton should be closely linked to the reactions of the followers. Leadership scholar Jay conger suggests that leaders possess certain behavioral traits and qualities that cause other to perceive them charismatic. And these qualities include the ability to motivate and inspire others, sensitivity to followers’ needs, skill in forming and proposing a compelling vision, and the ability to detect unexploited opportunities (Lopez 2011). From the leadership behaviors of Norton, we can see that he had been a typical charismatic leader and some of his charismatic leadership traits and qualities will be elaborated below.




1.1.1            Sensitivity to followers’ needs


Figure 2 Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of need model

Source: Adapted from Maslow (1987)
Employee motivation could be apprehended in a need based perspective which represent the starting point for most modern thoughts about motivation with the fundamental assumption that human are motivated majorly by deficiencies in on or more important needs or a set of needs.  The best known needs theory is the hierarchy of needs proposed by one of the most famous psychologists Abraham Maslow in the 1940s which consists of five basic categories of needs: physiological needs, security needs, belongingness needs, esteem needs and self actualization needs (Griffin & Moorhead 2010, p. 86). There are two fundamental assumptions of the model: one is that people have to get the lower end needs satisfied before they can approach to the next higher level; and another one is that when one is engaging in a certain level of needs, only the satisfaction of such needs would bring a sense of content and high degree of motivation to the person. in the case of Andy Norton in Creative Airline, he managed to satisfy the needs of the majority of employees regarding their physiological needs, security needs and belongingness needs. First of all, in the most basic needs, the physiological needs, Creative Airline provides basic salary to the employees which would be enough to meet their needs such as renting a house and keep themselves away from hunger; secondly, in term of the security needs, the company provides generous fringe benefits, profit sharing and also stock options for them to buy the company stocks in a reduced price; in term of the belongingness needs, Andy Norton through the encouragement of participative leadership and self management and also a culture that encouraged more dynamic and creative team working environment had successfully met the needs of belongingness among the employees by making them part of the company’s business.

1.1.2            Skills in forming and proposing a compelling vision

Vision refers to the force within a leader that spreads like wildfire when properly communicated to others. Vision refers to an image of the future that can be discussed and perfected by those who have invested in it (Grossman & McCabe 2011). As concluded in the case, there are two key elements in Andy Norton’s vision for the new airline: on one hand, the airline would be low cost positioning and provide affordable air travel services to the lower end customers who also needed such services but had not been satisfied previously; and on the other hand, the airline would have a novel type of organization that would offer a better way for people to work as a team which encouraged individual creativity and productivity in the work place. Also Andy Norton’s skills in forming and proposing a compelling vision not only could be found in his personal ability to see into the business opportunity and market position of a new product service but also could be found in his effort to seize every possible opportunity to communicate such vision to every employees of the Creative Airline and this was exactly what Norton had done at the beginning years of the company.


1.1.3            The ability to detect unexploited opportunities

An unexploited business opportunity in my understanding is generally related to an entrepreneurial opportunity by exploiting which the leader would help the company to create a new business model and profit generation mechanism, or assists the extension of business in a new market or industry. As in the case of Andy Norton, his leadership in Creative Airline had contributed to the utilization of an excellent unexploited business opportunity in 1980 based in Atlanta of the United States. At that time, when traveling by air was still a premium services, Andy Norton had witnessed the unexploited customer demand among those who would like to travel by plane but can not afford it. And he through a number of methods such as internal resign of the plans to accommodate the lower end market in the commercial flight sector which had not been exploited after the deregulation of the aviation industry in the US at that time. Andy Norton decisions and actions were bold and correct and had contributed to the utilization of a great unexploited business opportunity.

1.1.4            The ability to motivate and inspire others

Motivation could be defined as a psychological force that determines the following: a) the direction of a person’s behavior, b) a person’s level of effort and c) a person’s level of persistence in fact of obstacles (Lauby 2005, p. 1). Andy Norton’s ability motivate and inspire the employees could be seen from the changes in these three fields. Firstly, in term of the direction of the employees’ behavior, Andy Norton by communicating his compelling vision to the employees and satisfying their needs had ensured that the work of the employees were in line with the business objectives as they shared the same vision about the business in the future; secondly, by focusing on equality, informality and participative leadership, many employees had been motivated to work to their potential; thirdly, under the Andy Norton’ leadership and effort motivate the employees, company had overcome a number of challenges and difficulties which included the severe economic recession, a crippling national strike of air traffic controller and various price wars. In a word, Andy Norton had shown great ability to motivate and inspire the followers to better serve the company’s business objectives.



1.2    Dysfunctional aspects of charismatic leadership displayed by Norton

After the beginning years’ success, Andy Norton’s leadership had encountered some challenges with the changing business conditions and requirements, and his inability to lead the company from a new growth start-up mode to an established company where the company should be positioned showed that there were some dysfunctional aspects of his charismatic leadership, and we will discussed this below in detail.

1.2.1            Dysfunctional charismatic leadership under low uncertainty

One major difference between a start-up business and a well established business is that external and internal environment in an established business environment would be more defined and stable than that of a beginning business which requires the management of high uncertainties. What the researchers discovered is that “charismatic leaders may have a positive impact on an organization’s performance only under conditions of perceived environmental uncertainty.” In other words, when a company is new and struggling, or there is a crisis, or when competition has knocked the company out of its place in line, etc., that’s when charismatic leaders can come in handy. They can energize and mobilize the troops. However, charismatic leadership may actually be somewhat “dysfunctional when uncertainty is perceived as low” ( 2011). Similarly, in the case of Andy Norton in Creative Airline, as he refused to expand the management team and establish formal systems to perform the jobs such as recruitment and training, the company actually permitted a high uncertainty in management in a more stable business environment which causes ineffectiveness. In detail the charismatic leadership could become ineffective in this way, after setting a right direction, the charismatic leaders could still be very innovative and could prefer to change the direction unnecessarily which cause ineffectiveness in the business. As in the case of Andy Norton, when the low cost strategic positioning had brought great business potential to the future business growth to the company which indicated that the strategy of price leadership was correct, Andy Norton still tried to brought changes into this strategy by introducing full service at high cost and high pricing to attract business users which was later demonstrated to be wrong. In this way the unnecessary changes proposed by Andy Norton actually ruined the promising company which was operating in a lower uncertainty environment than in was in at the stage of start-up.

1.2.2            Overly self-confident and antagonistic relations with pears and superiors

In terms of impression management, charismatic leaders appear prone to exaggerated self-descriptions and claims for their visions that can mislead. And they may screen out looming problems or else foster an illusion of control when things are actually out of control. From the standpoint of management practices, there are examples of overly self-confident and unconventional charismatic leaders who create antagonistic relations with peers and superiors (Bryman 2011, p. 99). As in the case of Andy Norton, when the business did not go well, Andy Norton was claimed to be like a dictator and no one dared to cross him, he fire a key managing officer who had been with the company from the beginning because the officer challenged him. In this way, Andy Norton had a antagonistic relations with pears and superiors and exaggerated self-descriptions and claims for his visions had been misleading the company which is considered as a dysfunctional aspect of charismatic leadership.


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