A self-proclaimed “jack of all trades and a master of none” – Air New Zealand’s newly appointed chief executive, Greg Foran, has inspired the team here at Attain with his customer-centric leadership style, a people first culture and a holistic take on leading.
Foran, from humble Waikato beginnings, commenced his working life at age 15 where he packed supermarket shelves at Woolworths. From here, he realised his passion for the retail industry and eventually went on to become president and chief executive of United States retail giant, Walmart.
Looking at what Foran achieved in his role with Walmart, it’s clear he turned the company around and proved to be an active CEO on the ground floor. He would frequently visit stores to get a feel for the needs of staff and customers, and placed high importance on being empathetic – which he believes is key to building a strong and lasting impression in customers minds.
Fast forward to 2020, Foran's business record and down to earth nature meant he landed the top job at Air New Zealand, with big wings to fill left by previous CEO, Christopher Luxon.
However, it seems Foran has already made a positive mark on the business by doing what he does best, serving from the bottom and focusing on the people. To sum up, so far he has:
- Completed a cleaning shift on his first day.
- Served food on board.
- Put his direct email address into a letter asking for feedback from customers (how many big bosses do you know that do that?!)
- Helped baggage handlers load aircraft.
- Conducted a 100-day review of Air New Zealand and asked staff and frequent flyers for feedback.
- Sat in on calls to their customer service line to get a feel for the ‘customer pulse’.
Customers and staff are obviously at the core of Foran’s leadership style. From dealing with the top end tasks of finances, processes and strategies, to dealing with the people and getting his hands dirty – he does it all.
Foran is someone who is proud of his Kiwi roots – much like a lot of us – and has made it obvious that he plans to build on and enhance the services and brand of Air New Zealand as a world class airline provider.
His democratic and servant leadership, combined with a humble nature have compounded together over time, earning himself an excellent reputation, both in the corporate world and as a person in general.
Reputation is important for businesses as the reputation held to an individual will in turn be carried over to the company that they work for. This provides a baseline for how successful a company will be, which is why it is critical to consider and manage.
The most recent issue for reputation that Air New Zealand has faced and is still facing is the threat of coronavirus to NZ shores. Unfortunately for airlines, a range of external factors have the ability to easily damage reputation in a heartbeat (think MH370), only made worse if mishandled.
However, from what we’ve seen so far, under the leadership and guidance of Foran, the airline has been transparent and quick to communicate information to the public and its key stakeholders regarding both financial and health concerns around the virus. The public has been assured that the cleaning within the Air NZ planes is rigorous and strong enough to kill virus’, including Covid-19, while shareholders have been made aware of the potential negative consequences that could be seen.
While coronavirus couldn’t have been predicted, much like plane hijacking and system failures, the key is to keep an open and honest line of communication throughout crisis in order to protect reputation and limit the chance for severe and permanent damage.
At Attain, we are looking forward to following this inspirational leader and how his reputation will have a positive impact on Air New Zealand and ultimately New Zealand as a whole. Air New Zealand is the gateway to the rest of the world and the iconic airline has undoubtedly shaped our nation’s image and identity. To quote Israel Adesanya: “If they win, we win”.