Carsten Spohr is the face of Lufthansa. If the Supervisory Board has its way, it should remain so for the next five years. Spohr is not without controversy, neither among the workforce nor among customers. Nevertheless, it is right to give the current Lufthansa boss confidence for another term.
There are several reasons for this. Spohr has been leading Europe’s largest airline group since May 2014. When he was appointed, the manager had to deal with the reputation of being the second choice. For a long time, the then chairman of the supervisory board, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, had been looking outside the group for a new CEO – without finding one. Finally, Spohr got the chance.
The pilot and industrial engineer quickly had to prove that he was anything but an emergency staffing solution. Barely a year after taking office, a suicidal Germanwings co-pilot steered a plane into a mountain, killing 150 people. The Lufthansa boss did not hesitate and made Lufthansa’s worst crisis to date a top priority.
Intuitively he found the right words and did the right thing. Of course, there is still criticism from relatives of the victims of how the accident was dealt with. But that doesn’t change the fact that many other managers would have been overwhelmed by such a tragedy.
It is this realization that has run through Carsten Spohr’s entire career to date – he makes mistakes, but the question is: is there anyone who would do the job better overall?
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Hardly likely. Spohr is not a fair-weather captain. This has been confirmed in the pandemic. The Lufthansa boss made the wrong decisions. Too many staff were cut too quickly, too long was the wait to adjust the personnel capacities to the flight plan. But the group has freed itself from state aid faster than expected.
Spohr has to change the group
In another term in office, Spohr will have to show that he is not only able to deal with crises, but is also able to strategically realign Lufthansa. Lufthansa is number four worldwide. In order to defend this position, the group must change.
Anyone who markets premium must also offer premium so that top customers do not go to the competition. Anyone who promises reliability must not let their customers despair of their own complexity. If you want to remain Europe’s leading airline group, you have to show that you can manage takeovers like that of ITA – an extremely complicated deal.
A new contract for a manager is always a leap of faith on the part of the inspectors. This time they will take a closer look than usual at what the top Lufthansa official is doing. Because some things will also change in the control committee. With Klaus-Michael Kühne, a successful entrepreneur will bring all of his experience to the table – and perhaps at one point or another provide those new perspectives that managers with long tenures tend to lose sight of.
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