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The Vision, The type of Leadership, and the Strategy of CEO of Southwest Airline: Herb Kelleher Essay

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Herb Kelleher is one of the most charismatic leaders ever seen. His leadership style and vision is exemplary for all the leaders of today to follow. Charisma is the ability to win the passion and devotion of a large number of followers (Conger, Kanungo, Menon & Mathur, 1997) and this is exactly what Herb Kelleher had the ability to do.

His vision for the company was very simple: If you get your passengers to their destinations when they want to get there, on time, at the lowest possible fares, and make darn sure they have a good time doing it, people will fly your airline.

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His vision for the company is so basic and yet so deep as it shows very clearly the values he has in himself as a leader- to care for people. This value is deeply embedded in the way he runs his company. For him, people come first, and of all the people related to the company in any way, be it customers and shareholders, the employees comes the foremost.

He has a simple logic that if you keep your employees happy, they keep the outside world happy, and if the outside world is happy they buy your products or services which in turn keeps the shareholders happy. Considering the importance he gave to his employees, he knew how exactly to keep them motivated. Motivation comes from forces within or external to a person that brings about a sense of enthusiasm and excitement in him to do the required job well (Daft, 1997) and Herb knew how to bring that enthusiasm in his people. Thus, his concern for people was in his opinion the driving force behind his success and the success of his company.

Herb Kelleher had a very paternalistic style of leadership and he showed intense humility  and compassion for his employees. He created a corporate culture of family and fun in the company so that each employee loved coming to work and felt at ease and comfort. Herb never made a decision alone. He always communicated the vision well to his employees and encouraged them to suggest and advice. He believed that if all the people in the company share one direction which is common and mutually understood the results are achieved more efficiently and in lesser time. This is the strategy he used for every decision he made and it is one of the reasons behind the success of his company. He was a fair leader and treated all his employees equally. He had a philosophy that every employee plays some integral role in the overall profitability of the company and from the cleaner to the pilot everybody is equal (Paul Beeston, 2010). He believed in giving continuous feedback and encouragement to the employees for the effort they putting in the business. He used to say that you should always show gratitude to those people who are supporting you and your business because this makes them feel valuable and the more valuable they feel, the harder they will work next time.

Herb had a great strategic vision. He believed that in order to be successful, the best thing a business can do is focus on team work. He said once: “Leadership is not determined by position or title to any extent, shape or form” (MegaEssays, 2010). In order to successfully incorporate a team culture, all his employees participated in a job swap and this helped them to understand each other, coordinate and cooperate with each other.

Herb was a truly democratic leader who believed in two way communication. His leadership clearly reflected that. He always encouraged his people to come talk to him about anything, without any fear or hesitation. Regarding this, one of his employees Jim Wimberly said:

“Some people have an open door policy. Well, he has an open door, which is different from an open door policy. There was none of the usual protocol. The hierarchy just never existed here. It’s easy to get to him. He works seven days a week. Access was always there. And you felt comfortable going in.” (Raymond, 2004)

Herb Kelleher was thus an exemplary leader. His vision, his leadership style and his strategies always focused on doing good to people and getting the best out of them. The basic principle of his life was “to do good to others” and he inculcated that vision in his company and his people as well. This soon became the Golden Rule at this company and each employee, whether a pilot or a manager, had the basic value to treat others as they would want to be treated themselves. The company ran on the principle of MAKING A DIFFERENCE. Everybody at his company believes that their organization does not exist just to make a profit. It has a vision broader than that, an objective richer than that and that it is do anything that makes a difference in the lives of people.

Kelleher defines himself as, “I would define myself as somebody whose aim in life is to make a difference and at the same time have a lot of fun.” (Raymond Yeh, 2006). This is truly reflective of him as a person and defines him as a leader who considered his existence a reason to positively influence the lives of people around him.


1. Business Encyclopedia (2001). Motivation. Retrieved on May 2, 2010 <http://www.answers.com/topic/motivation>

2. Beeston, P. (2010). Belief Model for The Leadership of Herb Kelleher. Retrieved on May 2, 2010  < http://www.mission-coach.co.uk/pages/belief_model_leadership_herb_kelleher.asp>

3. Gibson, Whitney, J., Blackwell, Charles (1999). Journal of Leadership Studies. Flying High with Herb Kelleher: A Profile in Charismatic Leadership. Retrieved on May 2, 2010.                   < http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-65357277/flying-high-herb-kelleher.html>

4. MegaEssays. (2010) Herb Kelleher. Retrieved on May 2, 2010  <http://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/85306.html>

5. Yeh, R. (2004). The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants. Zero Time Publishing

6. Yeh, R. (2006). Leadership: The Essential Herb Kelleher. Retrieved on May 2, 2010   <http://www.theartofbusinessbook.com/articles/herbkelleher.html>

Cite this The Vision, The type of Leadership, and the Strategy of CEO of Southwest Airline: Herb Kelleher Essay

The Vision, The type of Leadership, and the Strategy of CEO of Southwest Airline: Herb Kelleher Essay. (2017, Feb 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-vision-the-type-of-leadership-and-the-strategy-of-ceo-of-southwest-airline-herb-kelleher/

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