Leadership at Southwest Airlines – A Case Studyby Jasveen Kaur


          To start with, Leadership at Southwest Airlines, What is so amazing and spectacular about the leadership? There sure is something very marvelous and remarkable about it.

As, Herb Kelleher, Co-founder and the former CEO, explains to us by comparing leadership with customer service, he says, “Just as Southwest has their customers, the passengers, the management has their customers, the employees. If the customers are not satisfied, they will not fly again with Southwest. If the employees are not satisfied, they will not deliver the required performance.”

Going along with this, Southwest in fact does not have a Human Resource Department – it has People and Leadership Development Department. They have created such a happy and fun-loving environment for their employees. The kind of dignity, respect and care-loving attitude exuded by them is fabulous.

Due to this, the behavior of the employees is entertaining and also they sometimes rap the preflight announcements, crack jokes and make the passengers have the most memorable and comfortable flight ever. Their saying goes to be, “Employees come first and customers come second”. This is very significant, as for them, if you keep the employees happy, they will keep the customers happy.

As the current CEO, Gary Kelly kick-starts 2012, saying, “My top priority is protecting the job security of our more than 43,000 Employees and nurturing a Culture that excites them to come to work.” It sincerely strives to be the best place to work.

The Southwest gives a whole new meaning to leadership development. Leadership expectations at Southwest: develop people, build great teams, think strategically, excellent results and the identification with the values of the company.

And the Leadership at Southwest Airlines and what they make out of people, they don’t just develop great employees but great people with high regard and immense dignity, inculcated with fantastic values.

This real life adventure story taken place with Southwest Airline will make the entire concept of leadership along with a caring attitude instilled in the people at Southwest crystal clear. Gary Kelly in his own words told,

“We received a note from a Customer who traveled with us recently to visit

her daughter, who’d had emergency surgery while on vacation in Orlando.

One of our Flight Attendants recognized that the Customer was upset,

took great care of her during the flight, and drove her to the hospital to see

her daughter once the plane landed. At Southwest, we’re all about getting

you to your final destination, but this Flight Attendant went above and

beyond to get our Customer exactly where she needed to be.”

This is the type of fun-loving, caring and superb leaders that Southwest Airlines makes of their employees, their people. As Herb Kelleher along with the former vice president Colleen Barrett have together established this management style of servant leadership, the current President of Southwest Airlines, Colleen Barrett says, “We do build our pyramid a bit different… at the top of our pyramid in terms of priority is our employees, and delivering to them proactive customer service.”

And subsequently, the passengers are kept very happy and satisfied by the employees and after all this is done fantastically, the passengers come back for more, which keeps the shareholders joyous and contented.

In order to know more about leadership at Southwest Airlines in Colleen Barrett’s enlightening words, you could visit, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TgR95vnM0c&feature=youtu.be


Jasveen Kaur

Content Writer


(SIES College Sion West)

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Ojas Barve

A professional in the education industry, Ojas is currently working with S P Jain School of Global Management (the global arm of S P Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai) as Program Manager for all the under-graduate as well as post-graduate programs whereby he plays a significant role in planning the schedules of the programs across global campuses located in Dubai, Singapore and Sydney. He also plays a role as Academic Mentor for guiding the MGB (MBA) students in their internship/projects. In the year 2014, 12 students successfully completed their projects under his guidance. Former Professor at MT Educare, Ojas has trained the students from commerce and management streams. He has gained exposure to the print media industry, while he completed his internship assignment with SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce in their in-house publication, SIES Skyline as their 'Editor-in-Chief' He has worked with BMS.CO.IN at internship position as 'Campus Representative' for three months after which he was extracted in the team as 'Chief Correspondent-Social Media'. He gained hands-on experience in the field of Social Media and E-Commerce, then. He started his career in teaching at Aadeshwar Academy, Borivali where he trained the school-level students in the French language. He was also associated with Dnyana Prakash Classes, Dadar for two academic years where taught subjects of Organisation of Commerce and Management to Class-12 students. Academically, he's a graduate in management studies in distinction class with a strong flair towards languages. He is pursuing his Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management and Masters in Commerce with Business Management elective. He has completed his A-1 level certification in French Language from L' Alliance Francaise de Bombay. Also, he is a Certified Professional Introductory Counselor from SIES Institute of Comprehensive Education and holds a certification in Capital Markets from Inter-connected Stock Exchange of India Ltd.

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