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Strengthening Leadership Skills: My Journey in Southwest’s Emerging Leader Development Program


I was looking for a life-changing career that would be fun, offer a positive place to work, and allow for my personal growth as a Leader. I found that and more in Southwest Airline’s Emerging Leader Development Program.


I was in Odessa, Texas when I received the phone call. I had been selected for ELDP at Southwest, an 18-month job rotational program in one of the airports they serve or a Customer Support and Services Center anywhere in the Southwest system. The program prepares the next generation of Frontline and Operational Southwest Leaders through on-the-job training and Leadership training.


In the program, we complete three, six-month rotations where we learn all of the different job responsibilities that keep Southwest’s operation running smoothly before beginning our work as a Supervisor over a specific workgroup. My journey started in New Orleans as a Ramp Supervisor. For the next 12 months I would find myself supporting our Ramp Teams to ensure our planes and cargo were well taken care of and stocked. I first joined the Team “Below the Wing,” the group of Southwest Warriors who keep the planes ontime and stocked for our Customers. 


My next six-months took place in New Orleans as an “Above the Wing” Supervisor. I supported our Customer Service Teams to ensure they had the tools and resources available to provide Southwest Hospitality to our Customers and internal Teams. After completing my first two rotations in New Orleans, it was off to Chicago, where I had the opportunity to experience my first winter season providing support to the Provisioning Team as a Provisioning Supervisor. Southwest’s Provisioning workgroup ensures that our airplanes have the supplies they need for multiple flights throughout the day—I learned that it is more than just pretzels and drinks!  




Between my different placements, I often returned to Southwest’s Headquarters in Dallas, Texas to continue my learning journey. Participants in the program have an opportunity to take Leadership development courses at Southwest Airlines University (SWA U), our state-of-the-art training facility. I took Leadership development courses and learned how to better provide Hospitality and Customer Service to our Customers. While I had Leadership experience prior to joining Southwest, the courses took what I knew and expanded that knowledge even further.  


I was able to bring what I learned from all three, six-month rotations and trainings together to grow as a Leader and as an individual. I learned the full well-rounded view of Southwet’s operation in just 18-months. Every day I made an impact, one flight, one Customer, and one motivated Employee at a time. The program helps you realize the big picture and how my job helps Southwest.


As an ELDP graduate, I was placed in California at Los Angeles International Airport as a Customer Service Manager where I was able to continue my Southwest journey. Having grown up in Texas and the southeastern United States, I would have never seen myself spending a winter in Chicago or taking in the Southern California sunshine. I can proudly say that I have found a fun and positive place to work. I have also grown as a Leader. I have built a long-term career here, at Southwest.


The most rewarding experience of ELDP and working for Southwest Airlines has been the formation of so many personal relationships from such a diverse Team. These relationships have transformed me into a better person and Leader that has proven to be life-changing.


Applications for Southwest's Emerging Leader Development Program are open now through Sunday, February 17. 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 and 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 in one of the airports we serve or a Customer Support and Services Center anywhere in the Southwest system, based on business need.

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