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Qantas Airways’ CEO on Two Companies, One Leadership Style

An Interview with Alan Joyce
April 06, 2010
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In This Video
Alan Joyce

At a Glance

Born in Tallaght, Ireland
Year Born: 1966


1986, Bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics, Trinity College in Dublin

1987, Master’s degree in management science, Trinity College in Dublin

Career Highlights

1988–1996, positions in sales, marketing, IT, network planning, operations research, revenue management, and fleet planning, Aer Lingus

1996–2000, responsible for network planning, schedule planning, and network strategy functions, Ansett Australia

2000–2003, responsible for network planning, schedule planning, and network strategy functions, Qantas

2003–2008, CEO, Jetstar

2008–present, CEO, Qantas

Outside Activities

Fellow, Royal Aeronautical Society

Alan Joyce took over as chief executive at Qantas Airways in November 2008. The then-42-year-old leader had just completed a successful five-year run as founding chief executive of Jetstar, Qantas’s low-cost carrier. He was being called upon to spin his magic at the parent company, no easy trick during the darkest days of the Great Recession. Air travel was in decline, and Qantas—the second oldest airline in the world—was not nearly as nimble and entrepreneurial as Jetstar.

Despite this challenging start, Qantas reported pre-tax profit of U.S.$146 million for the fiscal year ending June 2009 and U.S.$81 million for the first half of fiscal year 2010. (By comparison, the global airline industry was projected to lose several billion dollars in 2009.)

As chief executive of both a start-up and an incumbent, Joyce has relied on classic leadership qualities—decisiveness, communication, accountability, and teamwork—to drive results. Decisions may take longer at Qantas than at Jetstar, but Joyce says he's used the same leadership style at both firms.

Over the next several years, Joyce has ambitious goals to boost the level of employee engagement and innovation at Qantas. He does not want simply to import what worked at Jetstar but to call upon the traditional strengths and proud heritage of Qantas.

In his conversation with Andrew Dyer, a senior partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group and global leader of its Organization practice, Joyce discusses leadership challenges. Excerpts from their conversation follow.

We converted Qantas's reported results of A$181 million and A$90 million using currency conversion rates at the end of the respective reporting periods.