Finding an example of a successful business leader is not a very
difficult task. Finding a successful business leader with a leadership
style worth emulating is a bit more challenging. Early in my research
I came across a book entitled ?Lessons from the Top: The 50 Most
Successful Business Leaders in America--and What You Can Learn From
Them? by Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin
In this book, the authors describe effective leadership styles, and
then discuss 50 different leaders and what in particular has made them
good business leaders. It looks like a very interesting read! From
this book, I selected one of the founders of Southwest Airlines, and
former CEO, Herb Kelleher.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
LEADERSHIP IN HIS OWN WORDS
Along with Texas businessman Rollin King, Herb Kelleher is one of the
original founders of Southwest Airlines, the highly successful, ?no
frills? airline. Over time Southwest Airlines has become one of the
major players in the airlines industry, often setting the benchmark
for customer satisfaction. Here is a brief article from PBS.com giving
an overview of Kelleher?s professional life, outlining some of the
successes he experienced with Southwest Airlines.
In 1997, Kelleher wrote an article entitled ?A Culture of Commitment?
outlining his successful leadership style. This article so perfectly
describes his leadership philosophies and style that I will give a
bulleted list of important highlights, along with appropriate
quotations. Be sure to read the entire article.
*Personality counts as much as quality and reliability.
*Delegate and relinquish total control.
?A financial analyst once asked me if I was afraid of losing control
of our organization. I told him I've never had control and I never
wanted it. If you create an environment where the people truly
participate, you don't need control. They know what needs to be done,
and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to
your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchs
and control mechanisms you need.?
* The best leaders serve their employees.
* Define who you are and what you want rather than predict what you will do
* Change your practices, not your principles.
* Share the company?s business with the company.
* Don?t let people get preoccupied with titles and offices.
* Go to meetings to learn and see if you can help, not to issue orders.
* Systems are in place to help you carry out your mission; they are
not the masters.
* ?Nothing comes ahead of your people.?
* ?If you take an ongoing, genuine interest in the well-being of your
people, outside as well as inside the workplace, you eventually create
* Help your employees see the ?big picture.?
?The important thing is to take the bricklayer and make him understand
that he's building a home, not just laying bricks. So we take the
building a home approach: This is what you're doing not only for
yourself but for society: giving people who'd otherwise not be able to
travel the opportunity to do so; making it possible for grandparents
to see their grandchildren for holidays, or for a working mom to take
her son to see the World Series -- for less than the cost of a ticket
to the game. We constantly hold up examples of customer experiences
and of employee efforts to make a difference.?
* Build bridges between people, especially in ?times of crisis.?
?Some years ago, for instance, one of our employee groups, in effect,
voted itself out of its union. Many of the rank and file were feeling
insecure about their future, so we gave them a personal contract
signed by me. It provided for a grievance procedure, arbitration
procedure, and so on. Several labor lawyers and professors called me
and asked if that was legal. (I thought it was their job to tell me.)
But they missed the point. Our agreement with those employees was a
matter of good faith; it didn't need to be legally enforceable. We
didn't set up an iota of the structure that the experts recommended,
and a year later we had no grievances pending. They were all handled
informally, by people with good will getting together and talking to
There are, of course, many more great quotations, but these should
give you a great ?launching pad? for your research.
Here is a Business Week interview with Herb Kelleher from December 2003.
Here is a 2001 Forbes article discussing Southwest?s successes. It
also has some good quotes from Herb Kelleher.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I?ve flown Southwest Airlines on a number of occasions and have always
enjoyed its style, so it was interesting to learn a bit more about
where it all starts! I hope you find this information interesting as
well. If you have any need of clarification, please let me know how I
example successful leadership style
profile successful leader