American Airlines CEO Gerald Arpey Turns the Company Around by Leading by Example

Gerard Arpey, the Chief Executive Officer of American Airlines, is hoping to create a climate of openness between highly-probably overly-paid executives and the significantly less well paid employees that didn't exist previously. Gerald Arpey's plan is to create a value framework in which everybody at every level of American Airlines is working together-making sacrifices together-to make American Airlines stronger in the long run. Arpey's primary goal has been to re-establish a sense of trust between management and labor that has been sorely lacking in previous years, and word on the street-by which I mean Wall Street, of course-is that Gerald Arpey has done this by insisting that senior members of the company's executive staff sit down to meet with union representatives. The history between the executive level at American Airlines anad their employees is not one that instills a sense of pride. To prove that he was serious, Gerald Arpey even rejected a pay increase for his executives while insisting on a pay cut for himself. Publicly, at least. Who knows what kinds of bonuses he's gotten to make up for it.

Gerald Arpey has run American Airlines from the position of leadership belief that influence works best the old-fashioned way; not by saying, but by doing. Realizing that American Airlines employees had been given lip service for too long by a corrupt executive force in the company, Gerald Arpey really had little choice but put to his company's money where his tax return was. Knowing that there would have to be wholesale cuts made throughout the company to keep American Airlines afloat, when it came time for Gerald Arpey to receive an increase, he bit the bullet and took a cut instead. The influence of an executive trying desperately to cull his labor force into realizing a team-oriented goal of maintaining corporate solvency is almost always best utilized by making bold public statements of solidarity. Perhaps no method of influence is better than proving that you will do more than speak; you will also act, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

In January of 2007, American Airlines announced its first profitable quarter since 2000. In addition, the stock price also hit a six year high of $41. Clearly, the next step for Gerald Arpey is to move toward rewarding the sacrifices made by the employees of American Airlines. With bonuses going to several top executives, including Arpey himself, it is vital to maintaining the trust he has built up that the employees share in profits that American Airlines is now enjoying. The employees and executives all made sacrifices that contributed to turning the airline around and it would behoove Arpey to reward employees up and down the line. In fact, to suggest that only the executives were responsible for that turnaround would be to bring about a new round of severe problems.

American Airlines CEO Gerald Arpey gave an example of the power of influence by showing that he himself was willing to make the same sacrifices that he was calling his employees to make. Well, not exactly the same sacrifices; what those who call for a flat tax don't seem to care about is that the loss of a quarter of your income hurts someone making $40,000 a heckuva lot more than it hurts someone making $400,000. Nonetheless, in the world of corporate America where people to admire for any reason are few and far between, you have to take what you can get. The power of the kind of influence that Gerald Arpey demonstrated cannot be underestimated regardless of how crassly manipulative it may have been; too few leaders in the political world or the business lead by this same example today. Most don't have to care about public opinion, they just bull their way through to what they want courtesy of lobbyists who make sure politicians turn a blind eye at best and legislate especially for the concerns of corporations at worst. Don't take this the wrong way; Gerald Arpey is no hero. No CEO in America qualifies as a hero, but as with everything else there are levels of evil. And for now, at least, Gerald Arpey is looking to be well down the totem pole of evil, not even within seeing distance of such icons of satan as Jack Welch and Donald Trump.

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