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World's Greatest Corporate Leaders

devansjr
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With 37 years of aviation experience and closing in on my 20th year in the airline industry, I spend a lot of time "flying the system." As I make my way around our vast route structure, I have the opportunity to interact with numerous Employees both in and outside of the work environment. I have spent as many as 211 nights in hotels in a single year, so I have ridden countless miles in hotel vans. Additionally, I do not live in the city of my base, so I "commute" on our aircraft multiple times each week, riding just like a Customer. So what, you ask??? So, if you sit and listen to our Employees as they do their jobs, whether it is riding as a passenger or conversing with a Mechanic, Provisioning Agent or someone working on the ramp or maybe in an exchange of thoughts on a hotel van at 5:45 in the morning...if you just listen, an overlying theme comes out: the pride and trust that the Employees of Southwest Airlines have of and for their corporate Leaders. We tend to use words like "brilliant," "genuis," "down to earth," and "approachable." Herb and Colleen are legends in the industry and certainly within our Company, with Gary Kelly having operated quietly for years but rapidly becoming known to the world as the genius that he is.Group_3400.jpg So what, you ask??? So, if you just sit back and listen, without prompting, over and over you will hear Employees across the SWA system in every job description, saying great things about our corporate Leaders and knowing in their hearts that the leadership at the top truly is looking out for the good of the whole Company. I think that is a good thing. We don't have to put out memos telling us that Gary or Colleen did this or that "for the good of the Company;" we just know that our Leaders live for Southwest 24/7 (heck, I've even seen Gary wearing canyon blue shirts and desert tan slacks; now that's SWA 24/7!). So, at Southwest Airlines, we as Empoyees go out and do our jobs, "worrying" about taking care of our beloved Customers instead of being concerned about our Leaders at the top (as employees at so many other companies are doing). We have our jobs to do, and our executives have theirs, and everyone at Southwest does what they are supposed to do very well and very efficiently. It is a simple thing, but Southwest is about to celebrate its 35th anniversary because of the simple things we do better than anyone else.
14 Comments
joe-mdw-plane-d
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I have to agree. If all the companies in the US were run this way, we'd all be better off. Joe
Chez_Bez
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David - I drove a hotel crew van for a couple of years and that is reason #1 why my goal is to be a SWA FA. Each and every day I'd meet upwards of 60-70 crew members and it is absolutely like you say. The overall positivity and trust in their company was amazing. One needs only hear the conversations of employees just after they've ended their shift to know whether or not a company is a great place to work. SWA must easily be one of the best. Have a great day. Mike in Nashville
BLD
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WN has done an excellent job of maintaining a culture where the people are willing to give all for the success of the organization. I have to say that this formula is difficult to duplicate as this culture must become the heart and soul of the companyÃ
Francisco_Delga1
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while most executives are giving themselves raises and at the same time laying off their workers, Southwest continues to compensate their workers with job security. You have very humble leaders. here is to 35 more years..
FriendofBlogBoy
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David, Bravo on a great blog entry! Being a "student" of corporate cultures over the years (and being in sales, I am exposed to a LOT of different companies), I can wholeheartedly agree with you about the atmosphere that exists within the SWA organization. As my fellow responders above have indicated, the environment IS unique and is most likely NOT reproducible in another version. There are some things that "just ARE" and can't be copied. In your travels, you've no doubt seen the same thing that I have over the years -- a really great restaurant in a particular town will try to open a second location, and for whatever reason, it just never "takes off" like the original. Other airlines have tried to emulate parts of Southwest, but they have never quite gotten the recipe right, and the result is just not the same. As I've said over and over on this blog, anyone with deep enough pockets could buy hundreds of 737s, ground support equipment and fancy airport gate counters. But, they couldn't "buy" the Culture that flows through the Employees. And, in my experience, that Culture, at Southwest or in any organization, ALWAYS flows from the top DOWN. You can build the best mousetrap in the world, but if you've got a selfish, greedy, untrustworthy leader (or leaders) at the top, your firm will fail. Companies always adapt the personality of their leaders. In the case of my favorite airline, you are absolutely correct; just take a look at Herb, Colleen and Gary and you can extrapolate downward through the organizational chart and find their influence permeating the company. Obviously, much of the credit for the "personality" of SW is due to Herb, but certainly Colleen has spent years nurturing that personality into something bigger than Herb. In addition, as you said, Gary has definitely not gotten as much notice as his Wild Turkey-drinking boss outside of Southwest, but he has built the airline into the financial powerhouse that it is today. However, you pointed out one attribute that leaders can't buy or create just by wearing outlandish Elvis outfits or by arm-wrestling their competitors. Trust. That is something that is earned, day in and day out, by making decisions that are good for the company. Maybe they aren't always the best ones for a particular individual, but if a leader consistently shows themselves to be looking out for the best interests of the company, they will earn that trust. I can't think of a better example of trust than when some of the contracts for one of the unions expires during negotiations, but the members keep working anyway without threatening to strike, because they KNOW that ultimately, the leaders will do their best to take care of them while also doing their best for the company. You and the other 31,999 Employees at Southwest have a fantastic situation and you should be proud to tell anyone where you work! Best wishes from a fellow with a bit fewer hotel nights a year, Kim 🙂
Matt
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I know that I, on a regular basis, make comments about how fortunate we are to have these amazing leaders. They are human, so they are not perfect. However they strive to be the best they can be and they should be seen as true role models and inspiration to all of us Warriors!
Drew1
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Speaking of great leaders, Lamar Muse, Southwest's founding President and CEO, passed away last night. I understand why Southwest has never done much, if anything, to honor Mr. Muse's efforts to help build the company, but now it is time to let bygones be bygones. Mr. Muse deserves a very public tribute.
joe-mdw-plane-d
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Let's take a moment to remember one of your first leaders who passed away yesterday. Although he left on not so good terms he was the third "partner" in the humble origins of southwest. Rest in peace M. Lamar Muse. Joe
Tamra
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My hubby works for AAnother AAirline. He has been there 20 years now. It is so sad how he has no faith in his leaders or his immediate sups. for that matter. And I don't blame him. He took a fat pay cut a few years ago (after 9-11) and has not had a return on it. Yes, he's fortunate he has enough seniority to not lose his job. However, this is hard to swallow when your CEO was just given a HUGE HUGE HUGE raise for making a profit. I feel great knowing that our leaders realize the company is what it is today by it's employees...(and their leadership too of course) But was the profit a profit for that other aairline? Heck, I suppose if SWA went and cut our salaries, took away vacation time etc, our bottom line would look a lot better too. Is that truly making a profit? or biting the hand that feeds you? I love that Jim, our VP here in maintenance knows my name! he speaks to me everytime i see him. he's that way with everyone. That's cool! I have faith in our leaders! I trust they will do what is best for our airline. I do wish they would give me a big fat pay raise, but then i'm sure we all wish for that. I take comfort in knowing our leaders are in place, and don't step on us....the little people (nor do they make us feel like the little people) Thanks for a job well done!
Jane6
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Does everybody know what is the Southwest Airline Organizational Structure/Chart in 2006? I am a student from Binghamton University and I am doing a project about the Southwest Airline's control system. Can anyone suggest me where I can get a valid information about current company's organizational structure? Thanks Jane
Stephannie
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I have to ask the same question Jane did on May 2nd. I too am a student doing a Capstone project on SWA. Any direction on where to find info on SWA organizational structure would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!! ps. All the research I have done so far makes me understand why SWA had so many applicants last year. Sounds like a great place to work!
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[...] His crazy antics have gotten him lots of press, but it is his foresight and plain jane business sense that make his airline profitable when so many others bite the [...]
Vern
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Can anyone tell me where I can obtain a visual of Southwest Organizational Chart?
Stuart_Allison
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I have to ask the same question Jane did on May 2nd. I too am a student doing a Capstone project on SWA. Any direction on where to find info on SWA organizational structure would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!! Stuart