Warrior Spirit Remembered
You know when you sit down to write, you hope the creative juices are flowing. Perhaps I’ve been so crazy busy that it has been difficult to find the creative vibe. But in my travels and the frequency of my Southwest Airlines business trips, I find myself reflecting on the Southwest Emeritus Chairman, Herb Kelleher’s recent passing in January. What a beautiful tribute in the recent issue of the Southwest magazine (found in the seatback pocket the flight attendants will tell you) as well as a recent Forbes Magazine article by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg, who captured so many beautiful memories of this great man and legend.
For me, Herb Kelleher has been one of the greatest examples of servant leadership. I started hearing his name from the day I got focused on leadership. He became a mentor from afar and in most recent years, from the flight attendants who have shared great “Herb stories.” From his humble beginning to him taking Southwest Airlines to the success it has experienced, it all showed up in his love for people.
My favorite Herb questions challenge me (and maybe you) to think deeply. Herb said, “What if you could build a company that is as human as the human beings in it? What if you could create a culture that inspires passionate people to come to work fully awake, fully engaged, firing on all cylinders because they know they are doing epic work?” I don’t know about you, but just about every time I fly on a Southwest Airlines plane (not every time, because no one is perfect), I feel it.
Leadership starts at the top of an organization. Herb set the tone for Southwest Airlines. And it was easy to see why employees followed. No layoffs, no furloughs…. ever, in the history of the Airline. But that wasn’t why he had followers. He genuinely loved his employees. And he told them often! He said, “A company is bound by love rather than bound by fear. Seems simple enough, but how many companies use the word love? Many would say… the term love shouldn’t exist in the work place.” I would argue otherwise. Do what you love and love what you do… and oh by the way, love those you work side by side with. He added, “If you are crazy enough to do what you love for a living, then you are bound to create a life that matters.” And shouldn’t we want to create a life that matters… to us and to those around us.
Mr. Kelleher, your legend status will live on. And Michael, the flight attendant on my flight this week…. keep making a difference. Keep demonstrating that warrior spirit! Herb knows that you will.