Tribute to Herb Kelleher

Hey there! Today I want to talk about something that has touched me, and a lot of people I work with, personally. I don’t normally mix my work/job and my blog, because I like to have that division. But, something happened earlier this month that you may have heard about, and I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings on it. Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher passed away.

So, if you don’t know who I’m talking about, let me tell you. Herb Kelleher is the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, one of the largest domestic carriers in the United States. He came up with the idea of Southwest Airlines on a napkin, yes a cocktail napkin. He drew a triangle connecting San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston and showed it to co-founder Rollin King, with the idea of offering low-cost air travel to the people of Texas. From there, Southwest was born, jumping through hurdle after hurdle for five years to finally take off.

Company based on LUV

There’s a reason you associate LUV with Southwest, besides the heart logo. It’s because of the experience they have shown the public, and the company culture that Kelleher. Southwest has been voted the best company to work for, many people in the aviation industry hold Southwest as the high standard of company culture for employees. I do as well. Southwest is the goal for many wanting to work for an airline, it was mine. Kelleher built that culture, making sure to put employees first, because they’ll treat the customer right.

“If the employees come first, then they’re happy…. A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy so they keep coming back, which pleases the shareholders. It’s not one of the enduring green mysteries of all time, it is just the way it works.” – Herb Kelleher

With this mindset, Herb built a company that treated their employees well and in return, they treat their customers well. The company culture is something that is unmatched in this industry because it does seem to take a special person to see the situation the way he did.

A boss, but also a best friend

Another thing that made Herb so special was his ability to make any person, whether they were a child or an employee, feel like they were the most important person to him. This definitely ties into the company culture of LUV. When he would visit a station, he would visit with as many employees as possible. He also knew everyone by name, even if you hadn’t even met him yet. That’s something that is virtually unheard of from a CEO of a major company.

“A company is stronger if it is bound by lover rather than by fear.” – Herb Kelleher

Recently people have been sharing their pictures of them with Herb and I think it’s so awesome that a CEO/Chairman was that available to his frontline workers.

A legacy left, things to remember

I think we all can take something from the Kelleher playbook. There’s a reason that Southwest employees have a warrior spirit, servant’s heart, a fun-luving attitude, and live by the Golden Rule. It’s because those are the ideals that Kelleher instilled in his company culture. I strive to live by these ideals, not because the company wants to, but because I want to. I think it’s awesome that someone started a company so fun to work for and to be a part of. A company that people are proud to come to work for. That is what we can learn.

We can learn some things from Herb:

  • Always work hard for what you want, don’t back down
  • Treat others with love and respect, just like you want them to treat you
  • Make it hard for others to imitate you, offer something so special that it sets you apart
  • Be humble, thank those that help you with your success

Herb Kelleher was truly inspiring in business, but also as a person, and he will truly be missed by those at Southwest. Although I never got the opportunity to meet him, I’m thankful for the company that he created and the opportunity to work for it. Thank you Herb.

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