Herb Kelleher was the CEO of Southwest Airlines, a company that he also cofounded. He was popular for his leadership qualities and those are often regarded as the reasons why Southwest Airlines became the iconic brand it is today. Across the civil aviation industry and in the corporate corridors, Herb Kelleher is not just respected but also revered. The Herb Kelleher leadership style is popular because of his empathy and charisma.
Characteristics and Qualities
Herb Kelleher believed in the power of being oneself. He did not like pretensions, which is why you would still find the hostesses and stewards working for Southwest Airlines sporting an actual smile instead of faking one. This is just one sign of the values that Herb Kelleher instilled in his organization.
The Herb Kelleher leadership style is characterized by a few elements. He always believed in doing good for others. That could be for the employees, for his partners or peers, for the passengers or for the general people who were not his clients or flyers. He had a very empathetic approach to everything around him. With high moral values and a genuine devotion to do something good led him to become a leader who was respected by all and that led him to build a brand that has its own unique place in the history of corporate America.
Herb Kelleher leadership style had a unique element. He had an employees-first approach. Most companies consider that customers are always right, pretty much in the line of the boss is always right but Kelleher wanted to truly connect with his employees and keep them happy. He had a simple understanding of ground reality. That if employees are happy then they will make the customers happy, if the employees are not happy then no matter how many policies a company has and how strict they are, the customers will be treated in ways that are undesirable or pleasant.
Herb Kelleher loved the idea of having fun. He was himself a flamboyant man, not very different from how Richard Branson appears to be in public. Herb Kelleher was loud and he always treated others as his equals and not his subordinates or juniors.
Southwest Airlines has the distinction of having the least number of complaints in the civil aviation industry. This goes onto show that his approach to keep employees happy and to have employees take care of the customers’ interests did not just work well but did wonders.