Gerald Grinstein came out of retirement to accept the position of Chief Executive
Officer for Delta Air Lines in 2004, filling the position vacated by Leo Mullin, who retired
amid controversy concerning excessive executive packages and cash bonuses.
time of Grinstein's commencement, Delta found itself in a deep financial crisis, eager for
Following the tenants in Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie's article, "The
Work of Leadership," Delta's newly appointed CEO kept an eye on Delta's position as a
whole, while actively seeking any employee input from all ranks within Delta.
alerting to the mounting tension that existed between management and labor, Grinstein
recognized the issue as an adaptive change that signaled a breakdown in the
organization that needed to be repaired.
Taking a page from Le Calvez in the case
study "Four Seasons Goes to Paris," Grinstein fostered a spirit of open and honest
communication between the all members of Delta, slowly regaining the trust and
confidence of Delta's frontline employees.
Grinstein pushed the employees to confront
the difficult trade off decisions facing Delta, resulting in an agreement of deep
concessions from ALPA, Delta's pilot's union.
Reflecting management's new attitude,
Grinstein allotted himself a salary far below industry average and removed any
opportunities for bonuses or stock options.
Rising pressure on fuel prices and increased competition from low cost carriers
still drove Delta to file for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, 2005.
While under bankruptcy protection, Grinstein took the opportunity to accelerate the
restructuring begun in 2004, slashing domestic routes while expanding international
ones, shedding non-performing assets, cutting thousands of jobs, imposing additional
pay cuts and pension plan freezes for nonunion employee, successfully negotiating a
second concession from ALPA, and reduced his own salary by 25%.
opened important Board meetings to appointees from various levels of employment to
offer opinions concerning the evolving environment.
Because of their inclusion in the
decision making process, the employees gave their support to the resolutions reached.
To deepen their financial interest in the company, Grinstein gave employees a stake in