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5 Leadership Failures That Contributed to the United Fiasco

Every CEO is vulnerable to United-esque PR disaster when their organizations veer from their core values

Source | | Brian Fielkow

The internet is on fire with the recent United Airlines scandal in which a passenger was forcibly pulled off a plane after the airline had overbooked or oversold the flight. Following the event, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement to his employees, which was met with harsh criticism from the public.

People took to social media to express their opinions about how United mishandled the situation and vowed to never fly the airline again. In truth, in a week or two this whole matter will be forgotten and people will move on. While this is fresh on our minds, let’s examine what occurred and determine how we can all learn from it. As business leaders, we’re all subject to analogous leadership failures in our companies. Our failures may not be in the public eye but none of us is immune. Now is the time to understand the lessons we can learn from this event because we’re all vulnerable.

1. Never compromise your core values.

No matter how difficult the situation, leaders must always act in line with company values. Values bind our organization together. They are immutable. If leaders do not act in accordance with stated values, it creates confusion among employees and customers. United has well defined set of core values:

    “Warm and welcoming is who we are”
    We “make decisions with facts and empathy”
    “We earn trust by doing things the right way”

United’s actions were inconsistent with their stated values. Mr. Munoz’s letter to his employees failed to address the gap between the company’s actions and its values. Mr. Munoz created confusion among its employees and customers. It makes an outsider wonder if United is a company that lives and breathes its values or if its values simply are just a marketing and PR function.

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