Colin Marshall – Leadership and Entrepreneurship
3 November, 2021 in Coursework Examples
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Colin Marshall – Leadership and Entrepreneurship

Colin Marshall – Leadership and Entrepreneurship


Lord Marshall Knighstbridge was a devoted chairman of British Airways whose aim was to survive in extreme conditions of economical fall. His career saw a wide range of various jobs doing which he showed his outstanding mind and combined the knowledge in many spheres of people’s lives from Stock Exchange to airplanes. He came to British Airways when there was a greatly overloaded staff and the service declined significantly. As a result, the loss in profit was the biggest in the history of the company (544.8 pounds). Thatcher appointed Marshall on February 1, 1983, to implement the most incredible transformation in Britain, which may be called the “British Miracle”.

Colin Marshall as a Leader of British Airways

Leadership is not an occupation; it is a calling of the inner feeling of a person to make people follow him/her to the common goal. To become a real leader one should have certain features and develop a strategic plan on his/her way to success. If we speak about businessmen or chairmen, leadership should be combined with entrepreneurship since they go side-by-side with the strategy of company’s development.

Leadership can be of different styles, such as transactional and transformational. The difference lies in the approaches to performance of strategic ideas. The first one does management through the existing organizational policy and structure. The second one changes the structure thoroughly and creates his/her own organization (Michael, 2007, p. 4). Marshall was of transformational type since his task was to reach high results, transforming just the organization, but leading the cardinally different way. He said: “We had to sweep away the dust and dirt of generations, of economic and attitudinal litter in order to expose the treasure strove of air transport” (Lord Marshall Knightsbridge).

The BA’s Chairman did not have all the characteristics that a transformational leader should possess. He was not charismatic. Nevertheless, he managed to intellectually motivate people, who continued working in the company, by explaining the benefits of changes and their prospective outcomes (Michael, 2007). The attention was paid to both customers and employees. It brought high confidence and belief in victory to employees of the company.

The leader himself should be an example for the worker and transmit his main ideas to everyone. Toughness is an inevitable component of a truly leader while tenderness provokes misunderstanding and instability of management.

Gifted Manager

Marshall’s policies caused great contradictions between the workers and the administration. Thus, he was so convinced of his strategic choice that no strikes could persuade him. The conflicts were not only on big but also of local meaning. The appointments of Robert Ayling were contrasting to “tough and hard” Marshall.

Management actions are considered at three levels – strategic, functional and practical (Turnbull, Blyton, McGurk & Mart?nez Lucio, 2002). They embrace three aspects of work situations and emphasize the main idea of chairman’s principle – perfect service.

One should distinguish also management adaptation and implementation. In the first case, the actions are directed at involvement of the existed principles in the company’s work and in the second one, the actions lead to the quality based productivity (Turnbull et al., 2002, p. 8). The progressive approach was a core point in Marshall’s management. He realized that they could work the way they did before and be the worst or change the idea and become the best in Britain and world economics.

It is stated that “the organizations do not simply ‘possess’ strategic choices; they must create and implement them” (Turnbull et al., 2002, p. 6). This statement stresses the major idea of every successful company – not to follow the others, but create something unique and prove that it can work and make profit.

The main power in every business strategy is human resources. That was the main accent of Marshall’s strategy. He initiated shortening of staff because of increasing quality of service. He left only 50.000 workers and then wanted even to continue redundancy up to 35.000 (Willey & Sons, 2004, p. 3). But the labor power should also be correctly trained and motivated to perform its functions perfectly. They should be more polite and helpful in every airline company. “Labor control and industrial relations” are in the center of every strategic innovation. Before, the emphasis was only on the technical equipment of the airplanes and that made the service suffer from incompetence. As a result, a service criterion complements the competitiveness of airline companies on the world’s market.

The revolutionary idea made BA reorient from transportation to service. At that time, it was a demand of the market and nowadays it is still actual, so, no matter what, the service remains one of the major criteria in choosing the airline company.

Thus, the strategy of British Airways was not based on human service alone. They closed unprofitable routes, reorganized its fleet, fired many people and made the technical service work rationally. As it was mentioned, labor utilization was the significant strategy in the strengthening of BA on the world’s market.

The advantage of BA management can also be benchmarking. It is the process of studying and comparing service levels and prices of the world’s companies, according to which the BA made decisions about strengthening and improving some points in the management.

British Airways is a leader on the inner and outer market, but the transformational processes are effective mostly on the inner market. The reason is not the weakness of the company, but the changeable tendencies that are accepted in the world. Nevertheless, the BA is considered to be the most open not only to innovations, but also to other European countries.

It has also problems with modern low-cost services that are cheaper in price and better in service but it remains competitive with European airlines. These services have various proposals that can suit any client and that is why British Airways remains the leader on the market of airlines (Turnbull et al., 2002, p. 10).

Customer Service as a Goal

Colin Marshall had a strategic plan to create such a company that would look like it was just carrying people, but in fact it took care of every single client personally. The main rules of the customer service are: to forget about the rule book, be as courteous as possible, build interpersonal communication skills, encourage customers to communicate (Prokesch, 1995, p. 115). That was the investment in individuals, not the machinery.

The basis of Marshall’s ideas lied on certain programs:

· Putting people first (passenger is the highly appreciated customer and needs great attention and care);

· A day in the life (excursion on the airport and awareness of his/her role in the structure);

· IT reorganization (decentralization of management) (Willey & Sons, 2004, p. 4-5).

Following his own ideas, Collin Marshall created some advertisements that had an important strategic function. They attracted passengers and increased the profit.

As a clever leader, he paid much attention to communication. The purpose of it was not only to fix the situation, but also to prevent employees from mistakes. Meetings with other inner companies were regularly held in order to discus the information about the latest news in customer’s world, improve their service and interview the passengers (Prokesch, 1995, p. 116). It was a monitoring of the achievements of Marshall’s work. The results were incredible.


British Airways became one of the leading companies owing to the direction of its Chairman Colin Marshall. His wise approach to improvement of human resources service was a winning action.

His ideas were directed to the passengers as the main “customers” of British Airways. He admitted that being a passenger, he had always been dissatisfied with the service and that was the hint to make his program so progressive and productive: “I knew it not only from my own experience, but because I heard others talk about it, as well. The most serious thing I observed, though, was the low morale among employees” (Stevens, Laurence, Charles & Stevens, 2012).

Being a real leader and entrepreneur, he was a good psychologist as well because all his theories were based on the psychological peculiarities of passengers and people working with them. There are no revenues that can outdo the attempts to communicate with people.

“I was anxious to inculcate its principles into the minds of front-line people - those who had direct contact with passengers, including people in customer-service jobs, check-in agents, flight attendants, pilots and reservations agents,” said Colin Marshall (Stevens et al., 2012). He proved by his own example that a good service is the best investment in the company’s future.

Nevertheless, when asked about competitiveness in Europe, Marshall answered that all that service was created not because of the competitiveness but in the fight for the premium passenger. The administration of BA could not but take into consideration the world market in the sphere of airlines. Marshall tried to make an alliance of similar companies of airways and superseded the major competitor, Richard Branson from Virgin Atlantic.

In some time, as considered by most workers, the human resources were invalid. The morality lowered and one more program “Putting People First” was introduced. Still, that was uninteresting to people since the background was not the same as with Colin Marshall.

After Marshall’s death, the company still exists and is one of the leading airway companies in the world. That is, to a great extent, the achievement of its Ex-Chairman Lord Marshall Knighstbridge.


Michael, A. (2007). Leadership. Topic gateway series. (Vol. 3).

Prokesch, S. E. (1995). Competing on customer service: An interview with British Airways’ Sir Colin Marshall. Harvard business review.

Stevens, C. W., Laurence, W., Charles, W., & Stevens, A. (2012). Who turned around British Airways, dies at 78. Bloomberg, Retrieved from

Turnbull, P., Blyton, P., McGurk, J., & Mart?nez Lucio, M. (2002). Strategic choice and industrial relations: A case study of British Airways. (Vol. 1). Queenstown: Retrieved from and Human Resource Management/airaanz/old/conferce/queenstown2002/pdf/volume1/TurnbulletalRef-Strategicchoice.pdf.

Willey, J., & Sons, (2004). The British Airways transformation: a systemic approach . Achieving post-merger success.

3 November, 2021 in Coursework Examples
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