When a President expresses ‘full confidence’ in a member of their cabinet, the cabinet secretary’s days are numbered. There aren’t even leaks out of the American Airlines Board of Directors right now expressing ‘full confidence’ in CEO Doug Parker.
There’s so much circling around
Amon Carter Boulevard Skyview Drive that the new parlor game is getting other airline executives to deny that they’ll be the airline’s next CEO.
To be sure, the American Airlines Board hasn’t taken action even as the business alienated customers, employees and shareholders alike. So what could make this time different?
Losing the LATAM partnership – indeed, being completely blindsided by the loss – seems to have opened the floodgates for criticism. Each past strategic blunder has come back up, management employees are talking more freely about their dissatisfaction than ever with current leadership.
It seems to have been the kind of moment Timur Kuran described in Private Truths, Public Lies. Kuran examines preference falsification, were people disguise their feelings and beliefs out of self-interest or self-preservation. This can sustain social norms or regimes that are actually unpopular, but when it becomes safe or advantageous to reveal real beliefs those institutions collapse quickly.
It was dangerous to criticize Harvey Weinstein until it became safe to do so. Then even those who may have been his friends were suddenly shocked shocked at what had been revealed.
The idea is most often associated with the fall of communism. Speaking out against the regime was dangerous and so there was little sign of dissent. But once there were cracks in the regime, and little consequence for doing so, not only did critics rule the day but those who benefited from the system suddenly became anti-communist because that was in their new interest.
By definition it’s difficult to predict when these moments will happen. Was losing its LATAM partnership such a moment at American Airlines?