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Part A Do you think that David Neeleman best meets the definition of a manager or a leader? List and discuss three (3) reasons for your answer and provide three (3) examples of how David Neeleman does not fit the alternate definition.

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Part B What are the key elements of JetBlue’s culture?

Part C What role does the leader play in the development and maintenance of the culture?

Grading Rubric
– 20 pts Provide clear description of manager and leader, comment on how David Neeleman best meets one definition
– 30 pts Provide three reasons for option of why David Needelman is leader or manager with 3 examples of each
– 20 pts Provide clear discussion of the key elements of jet blues culture
– 20 pts discuss role leader plays in development and maintenance of culture
– 5pts mechanics (grammar spelling)
– 5 pts – APA formatting

Reference text:
Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press

David Neeleman Reinvents Airlines

David Neeleman is a legend in the airline industry and given credit for some of the major innovations in the airlines industry, including ticketless travel (Bloomberg TV, 2011). In 1984, he cofounded Morris Air and sold it to Southwest Airlines to join the leadership of that airline. He only survived five months before he was fired for being difficult to work with and being disruptive (Bloomberg TV, 2011). He had to wait five years because of a noncompete clause, and in 2000, he launched the highly successful JetBlue Airways before he left in 2007. He is now engaged in a new venture as CEO of the new Brazilian domestic airline Azul (blue in Portuguese), founded in 2008.

His vision for what an airline should be and his leadership style set him apart from most other leaders in the industry. Neeleman says: “I have this huge goal that I want everyone that works for Azul to say that this is the best job they ever had because I think that is central to customer service and then I want every customer who gets off of every flight to say wow that was a great flight probably the best I have ever had” (Bloomberg TV, 2011). He describes himself as: “I’m not a lofty perch guy; I’m a day-to-day guy” (Elite interview, 2013). He believes that success comes from changing people’s lives and contributing to society rather than simply making money.

Neeleman was ousted in 2007 from JetBlue after the airline was caught in a wave of negative publicity after it kept passengers in planes on the tarmac for seven hours during a storm. Neeleman provided a very public and sincere apology (posted on the Web at, and JetBlue instituted a much-publicized Passenger Bill of Rights to ensure that its much-valued customers continue to remain loyal. JetBlue still has daily flights to more than 50 destinations in the United States and Central America. Continuing to rely on the principles of its founder, the airline emphasizes teamwork and quick decisions and implementation. Top executives and managers consistently interact with employees and customers to listen and get feedback from them to keep addressing their concerns (Salter, 2004a), a practice Neeleman has also instituted at Azul (Mount, 2009). The attention to employees and customers has earned JetBlue high ratings and its former CEO awards for being a visionary ( Programs such as generous profit sharing, excellent benefits, open communication, and extensive training all get the right employees in the company and retain them.

Neeleman not only provides the vision, but also knows to listen to people who, on occasion, veto his decisions. He says: “The way I channel the risk is that I surround myself with people who are really smart and have a spine and can speak up and can challenge you” (Bloomberg TV, 2011). He believes that “If you treat people well, the company’s philosophy goes, they’ll treat the customer well.” Azul is made of much of the same mold as JetBlue: simple reservations systems, low prices, more leg room, online Internet, and a TV in every seat (Scanlon, 2008). Neeleman is obsessive about staying in touch with both customers and employees. He stops by the call center at Azul regularly, talks to the trainees, and reminds his executives to talk to customers and those closest to them because “we think we know what happens. But they really know” (Mount, 2009). He strongly believes that “it is the people that make it happen” (Ford, 2004: 140). Neeleman’s leadership style and magic seems to be continuing to work. Azul is growing fast, with 11,000 passengers when it started up to 45,000 in January 2009 (Azul, 2009), and is flying 70 percent full, which is close to 20 percent better than Brazil’s biggest airline (Moura, 2009).

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