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Sun Country Airlines Leadership Style Research Paper


In modern contemporary business environments, change is inevitable; change is defined as a strategic process that involves transitions that move an organization from its current state to a desired state; the objectives of change vary with situation, however, the main goal of a change process is to improve business processes, products, and strategies.

Leaders in a change management system have the mandate of managing the new strategies so that their organizations can integrate and adapt new business model in the minimum period without destructing the normal operations.

Scholars are of the opinion that managing change is all about managing old habits of the people; it a people management issue that involves motivating, influencing, and shaping organizational behavior to the desired line.

Invention of airline and increased globalization has necessitated the growth of airline companies; the increase number taking different approaches has resulted to an increased competition; to remain competitive, companies in the industry has to keep changing and adjusting their processes (Ashkanasy, 2011).

In the United States, being the world largest economy has embarked on massive invention in airline industry; one of the most successful companies in the industry is Sun Country Airlines.

The success of the company has been attributed to its effective management styles where leaders’ manager changes in the industry effectively (Sun Country Airlines official cite, 2011). This report is from an interview conducted with Stanley J. Gadek, Sun Countries chief executive officer, it will discuss various issues as undertaken in the company.

The history of the Sun Country Airlines

Sun Country is one of the youngest airline companies in the United States; it was founded after misfortune and failure of Braniff International Airport in 1982. The main shareholders of the company were the pilots who were working in the fallen company and MLT Vacations, which owned 51%; it has its head quarters at suburb of .

The company concentrates in low cost airline business with its main countries as United States (Domestic), United Kingdom, Mexico, and Caribbean; its main operating port is (MSP).

The initial approach of the company was small with only one airplane, Air Florida Boeing 727–227, however nine year down the line, it was one of the fastest growing industries in the United States; in 1991, and the company recorded an income of $9.7 million (Sun Country Airlines official cite, 2011).

It has among the most current technologically developed Boeing 737 Next-Generation airplanes; when in high season, the company leases some planes from other companies.

Currently the company’s chief executive officer is Mr. Gadded; the company has not gone this far without some hassles, in 1999, after doubling its operations and increased staffs numbers, it was faced by operation issues resulting from the September 11th United States bombing, the company has to suspend operations (Sun Country Airlines official cite, 2011)..

Stanley J. Gadek has been in the airline industry for more than 20 years, he started his career in 1977 with Ernst & Young LLP; he served as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of AirTran Airways Inc. from 2000 to April 30, 2000, before taking the role of Chief Executive Office of Sun Country Airlines at Petters Group Worldwide.

Leadership Style Demonstrated by Stanley J. Gadek

Stanley J. Gadek is a charisma leader who adopts a democratic leadership skill, a style where he involves staffs and other subordinates in decision-making. Despite the fact that staffs are involved in decision-making, the manager is aware that he holds the responsibility of the decision thus he leads the team to an effective, responsive, and timely decisions.

He is leader who led by example and understands that he should be in the forefront guiding their team to the desired destination; he has to develop the strategies and synergies to see Sun Country succeed. The self-drive is not enough, they should be able to motivate their team members to come out and use their energies and powers to the benefit of a company (Jakupec & Garrick, 2002).

When comforted by an issue, the manager makes to it that he has diagnosed the condition and situation to ensure that the right decision has been reached; staffs with the experience and profession to come up with the correct decision are involved in the process. Despite the approach, the manager understands that some decision are better made with no consultation; he does so in the right time and the best method.

Qualities, characteristics, and skills of Stanley J. Gadek

According to Fielder’s and Contingency Model of leadership, no one distinct method of leadership that can apply to all situations; different teams need different leadership approaches, however some common characteristics that team managers should posses, they include:


Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s Leadership continuum model, is of the opinion that leaders have the main role of leading their teams to great heights, they should be seeing the future and have the strategies to move there. Stanley J. Gadek has the main role of being the business strategic and devises the pathway that the airline will follow.

This theory embraces contingency, which argues that behavior of leaders varies along continuum, the behavior should be seen to evolve for the good of the company. It states that participatory and involvement in decision making of an individual increase as one deviates from autocratic extremes.

Four leaderships styles attributed to this model includes autocratic, consultative, persuasive and democratic; whichever the style that a leader adopts, it should be seen to be developing and adding value to the company. To make the visions right, and come up with the right decision, Stanley J. Gadek involves his team members in the decision making process; this assists in building effective teams and managing of situations.

For example in the September 11 2001 bombing, the company was at the risk of losing business, however, with the involvement of staffs, the company was able to come out clean (Xiao-Ping, 2011).


Stanley J. Gadek makes effective decisions when needed; the decision are timely and respond to the need at hand; Leaders should have the motivation and capacity to add value to their company; they should be willing to go the extra mile for the benefit of the company.

When operating in a team, managers should be vibrant and willing to look for better ways in handing issues; they should aim at adding value to their organization as well as maintain a high record of events. The success of Sun Country is based on the quality of decisions made by its management and the involvement of ream players.

Effective leaders use most of their time communicating; communicating does not mean giving instructions or orders , but means a person who is able to involve his peers and team members in making sound decisions. He accepts inputs of his juniors but is willing to take full responsibility of a decision.

Good Interpersonal skills

An effective leader should be able to create a good environment in amongst members of his team; he is expected to create an environment that allows sharing of information, the bossy attitude should not be created so as team members can be able to approach him effectively.

Team members may have some personal issues that might affect the performance of the team; a team leader should be empathetic with them and never be sympathetic. This will assist in assist in making decisions among the team and creating a favorable working environment; Stanley J. Gadek interacts feely with his juniors and seniors to make sure they jointly work for the good of the company.

There are different areas that are changing in the airline industry; Stanley J. Gadek acts as the change agent in the company; to translate effectively his company top its desired level, he has to coach his subordinates and affect knowledge on them. Teams’ skills and professionalism can only be boosted if the team leader can be able to coach his team members on areas that need to be improved.

Coaching takes the form of daily guidance, training and mentoring when need be; leaders should have the skills and the approach to coach his team members. In times of change, a leader who coaches his people on different areas always have an easy time moving his team from one level to another.

Coach and Team player

An orchestrate team can only be developed by leaders who have excellence team building skill; the major difference between effective and effective leaders is the way they teams; an effective leader has the role of developing a team from a group. An effective leader has the role of combining the different talents, strengths and weakness for the benefits of the company.

Motivational and empowerment strategies adopted at Sun Country

Sun Country’s Airline human capital can broadly be divided into flying crew and administration; the management has the role of ensuring that all the members are highly motivated and dedicated to carry out their roles effectiveness. Gadek as the chief executive officer has the role of creating favorable environment to the company that will enable motivation among the team members.

Human resources management department has the role of ensuring their teams are highly motivated through human resources policies and other policies within the organization.

The company is divided into departments and sections; every section is seen as a team; in-group management, effective leaders adopt the spirit of delegation, delegation can be redefined as a strategic approach of diving role and empowering subordinates to do certain tasks that were done by those higher in the authority.

The spirit of delegation is highly advocated for the company as one for of improving the performance of human resources and as a way of growing leaders and facilitating innovation in the company. When tasks have been delegated, human resources feel that there is higher confidence and trust that the company has on him and he gets highly motivated.

Within Sun country teams, team leaders need to develop the talents, skills and grow the leadership skills within the group, the most effective way of growing team members and ensuring that they are highly motivated is through strategic delegations.

For example, in the flying crew, the leader of the team per every fright has the role of ensuring that any concern raised by employees has been addressed; they also delegate their supervision tasks to some other members of the crew. Gadek himself when off duty or on a place far from his office, he delegates power and gives the assistance the much needed support for effective business.

When members are given a major role to play, they feel appreciated and they get motivated, it also grows the spirit of teamwork.

When it comes to empowerments, it follows the same approach with delegation however, empowerment is more concerned about making decisions which the team member could not have made initially; note than in delegation, the team leader is still responsible of the outcome of the delegated role since he has offered directions to be followed.

In empowerment, the staff empowered is given the full control of a project and is held accountable of the outcomes.

Another approach that the company uses to motivate its team members is through mentorship, training and coaching; every manager has the role of shaping his staffs focus and improving their skills. In day-to-day operations, it is the role of the manager to nurture talents and grow leadership in an organization.

The leaders understand that aspiring leaders should look for situations that they work under the guidance of a successful leader, at work places, supervisors and leaders have the role of mentoring their team members as a way of developing them.

Mentoring differs with coaching in that it is seen as a continuous process that takes place daily in working environment. Counseling on the other hand is offering warnings and trying to solve some personal issues, beliefs and cultures that might hinder the development of a leader in an aspiring leader.

To attract and maintain high caber staffs, Sun Country ensures that it has an effective wage and compensation policy; they have their salaries above the average salary rate. Other than respecting international and national labor laws, the company has its own internal wages and compensation policy that allows for monetary and non-monetary compensations.

Wages have emotional and psychological effects on employees, they communicate on the value that an employee have in the company as well as the willingness of the employer to retain his employees. The company’s wages are linked to the performance of employee; when wages are linked to performance, employees will be willing to go out of their way to better their performance in anticipation of higher returns.

When employees are aware that their employer will reward their efforts, they get motivated to work harder in anticipation of high returns. High compensation for efforts made creates a system of mutual benefit where the employee gains on one side and the employer benefits from the other.

Wages and compensation in the company takes the form of salaries, promotions, medical covers, insurance, and pension limited to the pensionable employees), education policies, team buildings, and paid leaves.

The role of leaders (Stanley J. Gadek) in managing change

Managers are important players in the change process in their organizations; they have the vision for the desired destination of their company, managers stand a better position to understand the past, present and the future thus when they are managing change, they do it from the informed angle.

Managers are change agents in their departments and thus entrusted with the responsibility of managing change in a way that their employees can easily cope. The managers are the facilitators of change and must enable change in their respective departments.

Sun Country has undergone through a number of changes, they are mostly strategy changes that needed to be handled with utmost care, for example in 1986, the company had to change its model and adopt first , a 380-seat DC-10-40, to assist it in improving its businesses.

One time that the management of Stanley J. Gadek was put to test was in 2001 and 2002; it was the time that Northwest Airlines had accelerated its operations offering the company high competition, this was coupled with September 11 United States terror attacks; during 2001 summer, Sun Country was bleeding of financial help.

It had also 737-8Q8 N800SY, N802SY, N803SY and a 737-7Q8, N710SY model of planes in the time. In time of change, transformational leadership model is of great importance, the leader must be seen as the changing agent and works to develop an effective change strategy.

The transformation can only be attained when there is emotional intelligence and good cohesion within the team; the way teams adopt to change can be interpolated as a behavior that they have to adopt, it of great importance to have an effective change process, since change is inevitable.

As change agents, the managers play the following roles in implementing change. The following are the roles that Gadek has played in managing change:

For an effective change, employees must support the change implemented; managers have the role of managing change in resistance in the organization, leaders play the role of a detective.

As detectives, managers play the role of digging deep into the dynamics of employees’ behaviors to find clues to planned efforts to prevent change and thus determine appropriate measures for removing the obstacles; they aim at offering an atmosphere that allows an effective change.

Leaders understand the direction and the organization needs to follow; for example in the wake of global financial crisis, they have to make changes that reduce the effects of the crisis to their businesses, they act as advocators of change.

Managers are the vehicles of change in their departments. As an advocate of change, the manager plays the role of campaigning for change in his department and mobilizing employees to participate in the change process.

Change can be to improve the current conditions, take a complete strategy or adopt a different way of doing things. Change management is a process where the management learns, understand and critically think about alterations they are supposed to make in an organization. However, for an effective change process, change should not be imposed to employees but they should be involved in the change system.

When undertaking a change, the employees are the immediate people who will be affected and thus they need to be engaged from the earliest stage. In transitional period the leaders is the one who guides subordinates to the desired path. They jointly make rules and policies to be followed in attaining the goals.

The role of the leader in this case is to oversee the performance of the roles of subordinates and giving guidance in various areas. They should use the power they have to have pioneer change and motivate people to adopt change effectively (Wynbrandt, 2004).

Strategies the leader used to address resistance to change and implement rapid change.

When implementing a change, one of the strongest hindrances to its fast and quick implementation is employee’s resistance. Resistance has been faced at Sun Country as the manager tend to implement new policies and approaches to the business; when an Sun Country is implementing a change, the most important feature that Stanley J. Gadek ensures is that there is effective change communication strategy.

When a change is to be implemented, the Stanley J. Gadek himself communicates the change down the power structure and incase there is a need to call for staffs meeting, he does not hesitate to. In this communications, he ensures that staffs are free to air their views and give their input to the issue at hand.

One most interesting aspect of change communication is that it appears across the entire process and pegged on communication within an organization. An effective communication in an organization means that issues and progress of the business are discussed in a way that the target group gets the intended message.

In the case of a management that does not maintain good relations that facilitate communication, then when change comers will be seen as a move by the management to make things happen

At Sun Country, communication is the system through which management and the teams transfer information; it also covers how employees communicate with each other. It is the company’s policy that change should be gradual and should not be affected before all the employees to be affected by the change fully understand and discuss the policy.

One of the strongest pillars of this approach to change resistance is the flexibility and facilitated input by staffs, sometimes manager may be seeing things from a different plat from since they are not on the ground: when they involve staffs, their plans are enriched and change made better.

When making changes that involve services Stanley J. Gadek ensures that he gets the inputs of his flying crew since they stand a better chance to understand what the operation are like and how they should be improved (Thompson, Strickland & Gamble, 2010).

When there is no effective communication, people are not being willing to come from their status quo and adopt the change but they will be willing to fight the change. Resistance to change when there is no communication is even higher when groups in the organization join hands together to repel the change.

There will be no one who really understands the need for the change since they are a distance with the management. For example incase an organization want to establish a computer network in its flying operations, the employees may feel they the change is coming to replace them. They are likely to refuse change.

The approach of change resistance management has been effective at Sun Country, the company has been able to move from a single plane company to multibillion companies, and on the other hand, the company was able to become profitable after the 2011 disaster after the changes implemented by the managers were managed effectively.

Services of the company has continued been gauged among the top ten because of acceptance of the changes adopted in the section (Parker, 2009).

Literature Review; the management approach by Stanley J. Gadek

Literature agrees that no single management style can dominate an entire organization and make it outstanding; however, for an outstanding performance, a combination of leadership styles is needed. The most dominant style as adopted by Stanley J. Gadek is the democratic leadership approach. Sun country employs a democratic leadership style; the style is favored by organizational culture.

The company has a freelance leadership style that encourages each person to contribute to decision making. When making a certain decision on a touching a certain department, Stanley J. Gadek calls for managers meetings where the head of the department comes and discusses the issue at hand.

He respects that they are better situated to understand the situation thus consulting them is paramount. For example in the wake of low cost planes, the manager has to consult the flying crew if they thought continuing to offer snacks and food bites in the planes was good for the company; they accepted (Margerison, 2002).

In a democratic organization, leaders and employees interact freely. Employee’s views are considered in making managerial decisions however, there are decisions that are left to the management entirely an example of decision left to the management is on the strategic alliance that the company will engage in.

To bring an issue up the management, the company has a well-set structure for this effect where junior employees give their views to line managers who are then responsible of escalating the problem if they cannot solve it at their level. Targets that employees are expected to meet are set by the management but their attainability is considered.

The style of management follows a Hersey-Blanchard Model of leadership; it situational perspective of leadership where it argues that development of a leader is dependent of subordinates and therefore playas every important role in determining which leadership style. Under the model, managers can only be effective if they have their subordinates at heart and consult them when needed.

It is based on task and relationship behavior and it therefore depends on the maturity of the followers. Three conditions that define best the situation are task behavior, relationship behavior and maturity of the followers. The model results in to four leadership styles as stated by Blanchard, which Include directing, coaching, supporting and delegating.

In a democratic leadership style, manager’s delegate powers, empowers and nurtures their employees to become better managers in the future. The main strength that improves the human capital motivation is involvement and delegation of power (Black, 2003).

How democratic leadership skill is seen at Sun Country

When Stanley J. Gadek is communicating with his subordinates, they are free to share jokes and they freely consult each other. They work as a team and team spirit can be seen all along their operations.

When there is a need, a meeting is conducted where they seek the way forward; as an organizational culture, employees believe that everything happening to the organization happens for their benefit thus they engage and participate in decision making actively.

The value of democratic leadership can be seen when flying crews are planning their day out, they always have a meeting before they take off where they discuss an issue or two pertaining the journey ahead.

The crew leader is seen as the chairperson of the briefing while other players are asked to participate in the decision-making. This attribute has been borrowed from Stanley J. Gadek. In board meeting, the Stanley J. Gadek acts as the secretary and has the task of initiating communication and information sharing pertaining the issue at hand (Ricky, 2004)


The success that Sun Country has attained in the fast competitive airline industry can be attributed to its effective management team led by Stanley J. Gadek; he is the strategist of the company. He has been able to create a winning organizational culture that responds fast and positively to change.

Change in the airline industry is brought about by globalization, competition, customer behavior changes, and industrial changes. To manage resistance to change, Sun Country Airlines adopts a change communication strategy, assisted with the leadership style adopted by the management; employees have always entertained change. They see change as an improvement of current business situation for their gain.

Stanley J. Gadek has managed to develop a freelance organizational culture where managers and employees interact freely; the culture supports staffs involvement in decision-making.

Before making a strategic decision that is likely to affect the organization, leaders at different levels are expected to communicate the strategy to their subordinates and entrain any reaction from them; the approach has facilitated gradual growth in the company.


Ashkanasy, M. (2011). Leadership. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(3),1099-1379.

Black, R.(2003). Organisational Culture: Creating the Influence Needed for Strategic Success. Boston: Boston Universal publishers.

Jakupec, V., & Garrick, J. (2002). Flexible learning, human resource and organizational development: Putting theory to work. London: Rutledge.

Marge Rison, C. (2002). Team leadership. Gale: Engage Learning.

Parker, G. (2009).Team Leadership: 20 Proven Tools for Success. New Jersey: Human Resource Development Press.

Ricky W. (2004). Fundamentals of Management. New York: Cengage Publishing Company.

Sun Country Airlines official cite.(2011). Sun Country Airlines. Web.

Thompson, A.., Strickland, A.J., & Gamble, J.E. (2010). Crafting and executing strategy: The quest for competitive advantage: Concepts and cases: 2009 custom edition (17th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill-Irwin.

Wynbrandt, J. (2004). Flying High. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Xiao-Ping, C. (2011). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115 (1), 1-144.

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