Sadiq Gillani’s Airline Career Takes Off: Strategy in Action
As a student at the Harvard Business School, Sadiq Gillani decided to focus his career on the airline industry. This case study explores Gillani’s strategic decisions to take positions with aviation consulting companies, start-up airlines, and budget airlines—and gain valuable experience that prepared him to work on big transformative issues, skills he would later use as chief strategy officer at the Lufthansa Group, Europe’s largest aviation company. At Lufthansa, a company with a German culture where people tended to work their way up, Gillani found himself an outsider. Networking and establishing a presence as a global expert and leader in the industry helped move his career forward. In 2018 Gillani became senior vice president at Emirates, which operated in 80 countries around the world and was the largest airline in the Middle East. As he reflected on the moves he had made to build his career and his reputation in the airline industry, Gillani wondered to what extent the career strategies he had employed were generalizable to other people in other industries—and whether these strategies would prepare him for his next position.
The case describes the career strategy of an “outsider” in the airline industry, his career moves and resilience in the face of organizational politics, and his networking and brand-building activities. Learning objectives include: how to build influence as a dissimilar other; how to manage career dynamics, political setbacks, and build credibility; how to build a reputation and personal brand; what to do to accelerate one’s career.