Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Joseph C. Rost, PhD, Director; Edward Kujawa Jr., PhD; Janis T. Andersen, EdD


interpretive case study, labor relations, leadership relationships, Leadership studies, management, Southwest Airlines, Synergism


As we move into the 21st century it becomes increasingly more important to move beyond what we have come to know as leadership--great man and position/authority-based, excellent management. Instead, what organizations are in need of is a postindustrial model of leadership. Rost defined 21st century leadership as "an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes" (p. 102). This study sought to operationalize 21st century leadership in Southwest Airlines Co., a Texas-based corporation that is recognized as one of America's most successful airlines. This company has a 22 year history, over 10,000 employees, and earned profits of $91 million in 1993. This research is an interpretative case study guided by open-ended interviews, observation and document analysis. Key informant interviews were held with Southwest Airlines employees from different levels and a variety of positions within the company to determine whether or not leadership relationships were involved in two major change efforts--an improvement in on-time performance and the perpetuation of Southwest's spirited culture. This case study presents the people of Southwest Airlines as leaders and followers who intended, and accomplished two very real and substantive changes. These change efforts were based on multidirectional influence and reflective of the mutual purposes held by the individuals engaged in these synergistic leadership relationships. It was determined that the leaders and followers involved in these change efforts were successful because they collectively practiced postindustrial leadership.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access