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From Dedicated Employee to Servant Leader: Southwest’s Emerging Leader Development Program


The following blog post was written by Joseph Grant, a graduate of Southwest's Emerging Leadership Development Program (ELDP) and current Manager of Ramp and Operations in Oakland.


Upon completion of my undergraduate degree and prior to coming to Southwest Airlines, I held a position as a healthcare administrator for three years. After speaking with a friend and learning more about Southwest, I realized that I wanted to work for a Company where I could enjoy my work, have fun, and grow as a Leader.


I applied and was hired at Southwest, directly into the Emerging Leader Development Program (ELDP).* During the program, I was exposed to many different roles within a short period of time. On any given day, I’d be working my shift as a Ramp, Provisioning, or Customer Service Supervisor, and facing many unique challenges.


As an ELDP participant and a Leader with Southwest, you are equipped to face these challenges and support your Team throughout the day. Ensuring the staffing is correct, and your People are receiving the assistance they need to be successful is important. 


My favorite part of the program was being able to meet with my classmates on a regular basis in Dallas. We learned best practices from each other, and then took those back to implement in our respective stations. Now that I have graduated from the program, I continue to reach out and stay connected to my classmates.


My first day in Denver during ELDPMy first day in Denver during ELDPAfter completing the program, I transitioned into a Ramp Supervisor role in January 2018, and was promoted to Manager of Ramp and Operations in April 2018 at our Oakland Station. If you love Leadership and want to continue to grow as a Leader, Southwest’s ELDP is the way to go.


Applying for ELDP has been the best choice I have made as a Leader, and it has helped me grow tremendously within a short, 18-month period. What you learn as an ELDP participant will be applicable not only at work, but also in life.


If you are interested in learning more on the program or considering applying, I recommend researching the Culture and Leadership style of Southwest. Our Leadership Team is comprised of true Servant Leaders who place their People ahead of themselves. And, at Southwest, we take our work, but not ourselves, seriously … and we know how to have fun!


Applications for Southwest's ELDP are open now through Sunday, August 19. To learn more, visit or check out our Southwest Careers Discussion Forum.


*ELDP is an 18-month job rotational program that seeks to train and develop excellent frontline/operational Leaders for Southwest Airlines. Participants are placed anywhere in the Southwest system for on-the-job training in a Leadership role, as well as Leadership training at Southwest’s Headquarters in Dallas. Upon successful completion of the program, participants are placed in a Leadership role anywhere in the Southwest system, based on business need.

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