Southwest Airlines: How Herb Kelleher Led the Way

Southwest Airlines: How Herb
Kelleher Led the Way
Ashley Craig & Satyam Patel
“A Symbol of Freedom.”
Mission Statement
 The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to
the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with
a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and
Company Spirit
 More than 38 years ago, Rollin King and Herb Kelleher
came together and decided to start a different kind of
airline in Texas.
 They began with one simple notion: “If you get your
passengers to their destinations when they want to
get there, on time, at the lowest possible fares, and
make darn sure they have a good time doing it,
people will fly your airline.”
 And they ended up being right!
 They pride themselves on humorous slogans such as
“Just Plane Smart” and “The Somebody Else Up
There Who Loves You”
 They have a CAO(Chief Apology Officer) who handles
all customer complaints and apologies
 Only operate Boeing 737’s to keep costs and fares low
 For the thirty-seventh consecutive year, Southwest
has posted a profit!
The “LUV” Factor
 Southwest has been in LUV with their Customers since they
began service to San Antonio and Houston from Love Field in
Dallas on June 18, 1971.
 As the Company and Customers grew, the LUV grew too!
 Then in 1977, the stock was listed on the New York Stock
Exchange under the ticket symbol “LUV.”
 Over the years, the LUV has spread from coast to coast and
border to border thank to the hardworking Employees and their
LUV for Customer Service.
Leading and Leadership
 Leadership: the process of inspiring other to work
hard to accomplish important tasks
 The foundation for leadership success rests with an
ability to make things happen in ways that serve the
goals of the term or organization.
 This is an issue of “power,” and leadership essentially
begins with the ways a manager uses power to
influence the behavior of other people
1.) Does the history of Southwest Airlines indicate that Herb
Kelleher was a visionary leader, a servant leader, or both?
 Both!
 A visionary leader is one who brings to the situation a clear and
compelling sense to the future, as well as an understanding of the
actions needed to get there successfully. Kelleher knew that he needed
to take care of his “internal customers” in order to take care of his
external customers.
 A servant leader is based on commitment to serving others, to helping
people use their talents to full potential while working together for
organizations that benefit society. Kelleher wanted both of his
customers to be happy and have a good time. For example,
offering/playing games for those who were delayed on a flight.
2.) What leadership style or styles predominate at
Southwest Airlines, and how has this influenced the firms
organizational culture and management practices?
 We believe that the human relations style of
leadership was most dominant since Kelleher
prioritized human relationships over tasks. He treated
his employees really well, listened to their opinion,
and threw parties for their accomplishments. Those
happy employees, in turn, treated their customers
really well and made them feel welcome. That is why
Southwest Airlines is ranked number 1 of all US
airlines for lowest customer complaints.
3.) Has Southwest Airlines reached the point where
something “new” is needed by and from it top leadership?
From all the theories, models and insights of this chapter,
what is the best advice you can give Gary Kelley as a guide
for successfully following Kelleher and Barrett to lead
Southwest today?
 We strongly believe that there is no advice to be given to Kelley. Why
fix something that isn’t broken? The company has maintained low costs
and high customer satisfaction for the past 40 years, and is modernizing
its plane cabins as we speak. As long as he continues in the vision of
Kelleher, he will do great things as the new CEO.
 "Our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long
term competitive advantage."
-Gary Kelly, CEO Southwest Airlines
Gary Kelley has had time to bring his personal leadership to
Southwest Airlines. But, he has certainly faced some trying times
with the economic recession. How well is Kelley doing? Has he
demonstrated that he has what it takes to lead Southwest to
future success in the turbulent environment of the airline
 Kelley has definitely proven himself after being
appointed CEO. Not only did Southwest buy AirTran
Airways last year, Kelley is working on expanding into
new markets, adding flights to heavily trafficked
domestic airports, and seeking cross-border alliances
with foreign carriers.
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