Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair and well-known ‘tooth and claw capitalist’, was on a chat show in Ireland tonight. As ever, Mick had the wit ready. Surprisingly enough, he played down his tough-guy image somewhat and acknowledged the contribution that other people, including staff and previous chief executives had made.
Perhaps this is for the home market’s consumption only. O’Leary seems to deliberately cultivate a ‘bad boy’ image, far badder than the chief executive of a massive airline could really be.
The reason is probably that he wants to avoid emulating one of Southwest Airlines’ greatest weakness – it’s overdependence on its chairman and former CEO, Herb Kelleher. Some people say that if it weren’t for nice-guy Herb at the helm, keeping the peace between unions, passengers and investors, that the airline would lose its edge. As a result, the company needs him to remain in an executive position in order to maintain the confidence of the financial markets.
By the looks of it, Michael O’Leary aims to be in a position to get out of Ryanair in a few years, without doing too much damage to the value of his own Ryanair stock.
Anyway, I am very impressed at what O’Leary has done. He has taken a complicated, risky business (air travel), made it as simple as possible and delivered it as a very low-cost, large-scale, profitable product.
IT folk could learn a lot from this.