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ELDP: Developing Devoted Employees into Influential Leaders




The following story is by Noah Chandler, a member of Southwest's Emerging Leadership Development Program.


From the time I was a child, I sought adventure and new opportunities. That craving is what lead me to Southwest’s Emerging Leader Development Program, or ELDP. After a stint working in the insurance and banking industry, I had a decision to make. Did I want to work a job that I am not passionate about? Or did I want to step out of my comfort zone and follow my lifelong passion for adventure? I knew the answer immediately, thus beginning my job search.


I saw a post with a link to apply for Southwest’s ELDP on LinkedIn:


Southwest’s Emerging Leader Development Program, or ELDP, is an 18-month job rotational program consisting of on-the-job training, with an emphasis in Leadership Development. Throughout the course of the program, participants work as Supervisors in host locations in three of the following areas: Customer Service, Operations, Ramp, Provisioning, and Customer Support & Services. In a fast-paced environment that’s always evolving, ELDP graduates have the advantage of Leadership experience in most, or all, areas of Southwest Operations.


I didn’t entirely understand what ELDP was. They wanted someone who was passionate for leadership and adventure. These qualities sparked my interest, so I applied that day.


The process took time—I received job offers from multiple other companies as I interviewed with Southwest. Something told me to wait until I heard back. I received a call, telling me that I was selected as an ELDP participant. It was at that moment that the joy of adventure filled my life again.


The three best things about ELDP:

  1. The People I work with are the best part of ELDP. I love working with and learning from the Agents.
  2. It's amazing how each workgroup has drastically different needs, wants, and personalities. I’ve learned to engage each work group and be a more effective leader.
  3. ELDP offers so many different adventures and experiences throughout the 18-month time frame. You never know what you are going to see or experience on a given day. It's a fresh, new start each day, and I love it.


The number one thing I’ve learned throughout ELDP is to lead with humility. People respect and respond to humility more than any other quality. Early on in the program I heard the phrase, "People don't care what you know until they know that you care." It is amazing what people can do when they know that their leader cares for them.


Six months into the program, I can confidently say that it has been one of the best experiences of my life. The people of I’ve met, places I’ve gone, and lessons I’ve learned are priceless. It brought back the adventurous young boy from my past. I am living my dream every day. Joining Southwest’s ELDP propelled me into a lifelong career of adventures.   


Join our Leadership Team by applying for ELDP now through Aug. 14 at Questions? Visit our careers discussion board.


Southwest’s Emerging Leader Development Program was recognized for outstanding achievements in leadership development and programs in’s 2016 Leadership Excellence Awards:

  • #3 in the Best First Time Manager Program category.
  • #5 for Innovation in Deployment of Leadership Programs.
  • Dawn Siemiet, Leadership Development Program Leader, was named #1 in the Top Future Leader Award – 35 and Under category.
  • Julie Weber, VP People, was among the top 10 Top Corporate Leaders Over 35.


In addition to the four 2016 Leadership Excellence Awards above, Southwest is one of Chief Executive Magazine’s 2016 Best Companies for Leaders. The program also took top honors at the Association for Talent Development’s Dallas AXIS Awards, earning Best in Show, as well as first place in the Leadership Development, Succession Planning, and Talent Mobility categories.

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