One challenge which reveals an executive’s leadership ability involves making the decision to fire an employee. President Ronald Reagan did not enjoy firing employees, due in part to his own father struggling to maintain employment. When the 1981 PATCO strike occurred, several obstacles arose which tested Reagan’s ability to act. The Professional Air Traffic Controller’s Organization (PATCO) had publicly supported Reagan during his 1980 presidential campaign when other unions did not. Additionally, Reagan was sympathetic to unions, even serving as President of the Screen Actor’s Guild. These potential obstacles proved challenging from a political and personal perspective. However, when the 1981 PATCO strike occurred, President Reagan took decisive action, providing the striking employees with 48 hours to return to their jobs. Those who did not would be fired. Reagan’s decision served as a watershed event of his presidency which posed domestic and foreign policy implications. Reagan proved willing to take an alternate route, regardless of the potential political ramifications and his own reluctance to fire employees. The 1981 PATCO strike provided Reagan with an opportunity to exercise decisive action early in his administration, and President Reagan’s decision defied expectations. This decision ultimately provided a glimpse into Reagan’s management and leadership styles which would impact his later decisions, including his response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
"An Alternate Route: How Ronald Reagan Defied Expectations with his Approach to the Crosswinds of the PATCO Strike,"
Bound Away: The Liberty Journal of History: Vol. 5:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/ljh/vol5/iss1/2