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Collaboration is Key to Success, Says Southwest’s Randy Babbitt

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Randy Babbitt_crop “If my fingerprints and your fingerprints are on the final product, we’re much more likely to embrace it,” says Randy Babbitt, Southwest’s senior vice president of labor relations, in a just-released Profiles in Collaboration™   interview produced by Overland Resource Group. I asked Randy to participate in the interview series because he has embodied collaborative leadership in the many roles he’s played throughout his distinguished career, whether it was in the cockpit as an Eastern Airlines pilot for 25 years; in the presidency of the Air Line Pilots Association; at the helm of the FAA as its Administrator or in his current role leading Southwest’s labor relations. Randy understands the value of collaboration from both the union and the management perspective and he has spent his career championing it. While I have known Randy for many years, and had the pleasure of working with him and his union colleagues to launch and develop a collaborative process that’s now heralded as a best practice in the federal government, the interview revealed just how central collaboration is to his leadership approach. Regarding building effective, credible communication, he says: “The most effective communication is when the front line employee looks up and sees the manager of the company standing shoulder to shoulder with the [union] representatives that (they) elected agreeing that this [collaboration] is something we ought to do.” In terms of the value of operating with agreed-upon data, he says, “If we don’t see the same issue, it’s going to be awfully hard to come up with a solution. If you see a different problem than I see, then we are trying to solve two different things.  Do we agree on the facts? Then let’s move to the problem.” Throughout the interview, Randy talks candidly about conflicts he’s been involved in and challenges he’s confronted, and in his typical down-home style, gets to the heart of collaboration: “Look at Southwest; look at the FAA and its collaborative process with NATCA and PASS—there are many organizations that are working together to make fundamental improvements in their operations and in the workplace,” he said. “It’s just a better way of doing business.” Randy also addressed why he believed it was important to share his message on collaboration as an interviewee. “I think this would be a great time for creating a venue for talking about what’s working in the labor-management arena. Hopefully this series will help catalogue and spotlight best practices for others to learn from.” Overland Resource Group salutes Randy Babbitt, who just as he has throughout his distinguished and varied career, continues to embody the principles of collaborative leadership—including providing a model for others to follow. He joins other collaborative leaders in the Profiles in Collaboration™ series, who include: Donna Hicks, Harvard professor and author of Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict; National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi; and Michael Filler, director of the Teamsters’ Public Services division; among others. The Overland Resource Group Profiles in Collaboration™ interviews are available as downloadable mp3 audio interviews, or as written transcripts. For more information, contact Overland at or visit