Written Case Study: Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair

The leadership style affects consistently the business development, the organizational structure and performance of companies. In the contemporary business environment, the role of leadership has increased even more, as business grows more and more complicated, while relationships between leaders and their subordinates become more and more important. In this regard, it is possible to refer to the example of two airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair, which have proved to be successful but they use quite different leadership style and have different marketing strategies. In spite of existing differences between the two companies, they are quite successful. Consequently, the analysis of the leadership style of both companies and the evaluation of differences existing between companies can help to get insight of major reasons for success of either company. At any rate, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair hold a strong marketing position and their business keep growing, while the use different leadership style and elaborate different marketing strategies, which though are successful within the framework of their specific leadership style they use.

First of all, it is worth mentioning the fact that Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic are two companies that use different leadership and marketing strategies. They operate in their airline business but their leaders, Richard Branson and Michael O’Leary are totally different. The companies attempt to develop their business successfully focusing on the market expansion but Virgin Atlantic focuses on international and long-haul flights mainly, while Ryanair focuses on domestic and European, short-haul flights mainly. Leaders of the two companies use different leadership style and build up different relationships with their subordinates and employees. Virgin Atlantic tends to a tolerant, liberal leadership, where the leader performs the role of a guide and assistant to employees, while Ryanair focuses on the distant relationships between the leader and subordinates, who just have to perform their functions according to their contract, while any interaction and interpersonal relationships between the leader and employees are absolutely unnecessary for Ryanair.

From the transformational leadership perspective, leaders of Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson and Michael O’Leary, perform different leadership style. On the one hand, Virgin Atlantic builds up positive interpersonal relationships between the leader and subordinates since employees are of the utmost importance for the company and shape the brand image of the company. Hence, the recruitment process is very careful in Virgin Atlantic. In fact, staffing is very important for Virgin Atlantic because employees shape the public brand image of the company. This is why the leader of the company attempts to serve as a guide for subordinates and to show the model of positive behaviour which employees have to follow, especially in their relations with customers of the company.

On the other hand, Ryanair leadership involves poor interpersonal relationships, while employees are perceived as the staff that may be substitutable, if necessary. Employees just have to match basic criteria of the company to get employment in Ryanair.  The leadership style of Ryanair is quite different from that of Virgin because the leader of the company does not actually rely on employees as the important marketing asset of the company as does the leader of Virgin. Ryanair views employees as routine parts of the organizational mechanism. In other words, employees of Ryanair have to perform their functions strictly, while the company does not force them to work with clients closely and create a positive brand image of the company as is the case of Virgin Atlantic’s employees.

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