We’ve talked at length here about empowering employees, having bottom-up innovation, and ensuring that customers are met with surprise and delight at every opportunity. Today, we want to reflect a little on the role of the CEO in leading the organization’s culture.

Harvard Business Review recently published an interesting article about culture and the CEO’s role in setting it, and how that greatly impacts the rest of the organization. Leading up the article was the statement that:

In growing companies more than anywhere else, culture is tightly tied to the CEO.

Having spent time reflecting on organizational culture, we contend that HBR’s statement holds equally true for mature organizations as it does for startups.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about Air New Zealand and how the company views customer service. Since then, we had the opportunity to spend a day at Air New Zealand’s corporate headquarters, meet with its executive team, and get acquainted with its organizational culture, the latter of which is clearly set by the airline’s charismatic CEO, Rob Fyfe.

Visiting Air New Zealand, the sense of team that pervades the organization is striking. Everywhere one goes, from the call center, to the c-suite, from the canteen, to a meeting with the marketing team, there is the distinct impression that everyone has bought into a vision set by Fyfe. That vision is very much about self-expression, encouraging employees in both their personal and professional lives, and creating a company where creative exchange is wholly welcomed and fostered. And it all trickles down from Fyfe.

In fact, watching this Air New Zealand recruiting video truly offers a glimpse into what real leadership looks like (and for those that are wondering, yes that is the CEO in full body paint at around 45 seconds on the video).

New Zealand Air’s CEO Dons Full Body Paint for the Team

In this day and age where we hear often of CEOs being less than ethical – it’s refreshing to see leadership from someone who truly “walks the talk.” Fyfe’s leadership is clearly working too. Air New Zealand was named this year’s airline of the year by Air Transport World, the leading international airline industry magazine.

And it wouldn’t be right to sign off without a tip of the hat to Southwest airlines and its CEO, Herb Kelleher for getting with the spirit of things and leading from the front as well!

New Zealand Air’s CEO Dons Full Body Paint for the Team
New Zealand Air’s CEO Dons Full Body Paint for the Team
Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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