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From E-4 Specialist to ELDP Supervisor


The following story is by Derek Ridings, a member of Southwest's Emerging Leader Developlment program.  


Did you see Southwest Airlines was recently named among U.S. Veterans Magazine’s 2016 Best of the Best Top Veteran-Friendly Companies? We have nearly 7,000 Southwest Employees who are veterans, and I’m proud to be one of them.


I’m in Southwest’s Emerging Leader Development Program (ELDP) in Nashville. ELDP is an 18-month job rotational program consisting of on-the-job training, with an emphasis in Leadership Development.  During the course of the program, we work as Supervisors in their 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. 



My Army experience is something I pull from as I work as a Supervisor “Above the Wing” and on the Ramp at Nashville International Airport. My favorite part of my job is getting to be involved in all aspects of Southwest’s operation every day. I encounter new challenges that I may not always have a ready-made solution for, but I am able to be a creative problem-solver and rely on other Supervisors—some with 20 more years of experience than me! It’s great being a part of a larger Team.


To hear more about Derek’s experience in ELDP, see this spotlight on G.I. Join our Leadership Team by applying for ELDP now through Friday, Sept. 7 at


Southwest’s Emerging Leader Development Program has been 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, 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.


Southwest Airlines is proud to be: one of G.I. Jobs’ Top 100 Military Friendly Employers, a Most Valuable Employer for Military by, and one of U.S. Veterans Magazine’s Best of the Best Military-Friendly Companies.