Case Study

National European Airline

The Challenge

National European Airline flies to 60 countries, carries over 7 million passengers a year, has a turnover of €2,023 million, and employs 8,000 people. In 2010, a new CEO was appointed with an agenda to return the business to profit after a number of challenging years. By mid-2011, new appointments were complete and a renewed Executive Board (Leadership Team) had been formed. The need for business transformation was then determined and scaled in terms of savings, process changes, and investments needed. The strategy is in place to be the leading airline in the Nordic region and in top three for all transit traffic between Europe and Asia.

The culture of the National European Airline had built up over a number of years in largely public ownership (56%). This had engendered a mindset that was unused to change and relied on the leadership team to run the business. The new team was a mix of new appointments and existing airline leaders with different perspectives on the approach to the scale and pace of change required. The CEO saw leadership as a key capability and believed a change in leadership approach was essential to success; however, this was not a widely shared view. The business was composed of circa 10 business units or functions with different views on and needs for leadership.

GP Strategies Solution

The first task was to generate a case for change in leadership approach by talking to some influencers and representative leaders. GP Strategies worked with the internal team to create a logical flow that demonstrated the link between the quality of leadership and the outcomes of the business. As a result of this, the Executive Board agreed to start the leadership development process as a team, and if the impact was proven with the team, then involve all 120 senior leaders in all business groups. Individual 360 feedback and 1:1 personal development consultations were held for the team of 10.

This data informed the content and approach to a two-day leadership development workshop that simultaneously coached the team dynamics to create a “real shift” in the performance of the team. The content of the program was used immediately to change the approach of some critical upcoming meetings and communications and was seen as key to getting results that they wanted but had never achieved before. The team voted the event a significant success by impacting the behaviors of team members and convincing them that leadership development was critical to change in the business.

Business Impact

The Leadership Team agreed they would continue their development over an additional four months. This included continuing to hold learning group coaching sessions with the facilitators, inviting a coach to the board meetings to intervene, reinforce, and challenge behaviors as they occurred.

Finally, an evening and a day were spent sharing learning to date and adding a few new techniques to the skill sets, but mainly taking the time to review and celebrate the significant progress and outcomes achieved by the team. Leadership development outcomes were achieved a year ahead of the schedule expected by the CEO and HR Director. 

“The Senior Leader program provided a fundamental, personal experience to our leaders at a very challenging time of change.” – Head of L&D, National European Airline


*The services described in this case study were performed by Bath Consultancy Group, now GP Strategies Corporation.

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