Leaders and Strategies in Real Life: Herb Kelleher Edition

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Instead of studying leadership, why not spend some time studying leaders and strategies in the wild? You can learn a lot from leadership experts, but you always see the leader and what he or she does through the expert’s personal lens. Supplement that learning with studying real leaders in real life situations and draw your own conclusions. The posts in this series will help you.

This week we honor the memory and legacy of Herb Kelleher.

From the New York Times: Herb Kelleher, Whose Southwest Airlines Reshaped the Industry, Dies at 87

“Herb Kelleher, who turned conventional airline industry wisdom on its head by combining low fares with high standards of customer service to build Southwest Airlines into one of the nation’s most successful and admired companies, died on Thursday. He was 87.”

From the Washington Post: Herb Kelleher, visionary co-founder and chief executive of Southwest Airlines, dies at 87

“Herb Kelleher, the charismatic and colorful co-founder of Southwest Airlines, was hardly a cookie-cutter chief executive. He showed up at company parties dressed as Elvis Presley, invited employees to a weekly cookout, handled baggage during the Thanksgiving rush and brought doughnuts to a hangar at 4 a.m. to schmooze with his airline’s mechanics.
He once arm-wrestled an executive from another company to settle a legal dispute and never hid his fondness for cigarettes and bourbon. Yet he was considered a visionary business leader whose record of sustained success at Southwest led Fortune magazine to ask on its cover: ‘Is Herb Kelleher America’s Best CEO?'”

From Jeffrey Sonnenfeld: Herb Kelleher Didn’t Have To Be Boring To Succeed

“Kelleher, who died on Thursday at age 87, may not have seemed like much of a threat to the clubby US airline industry of the early 1970s when he launched Southwest Airlines. But what began as a tiny commuter airline serving three Texas cities with four planes and 198 employees now employs 58,000 people, carries over 120 million passengers a year, has never had a layoff or pay cut, and his been profitable every year since 1974. When they did hit financial potholes in 1973, Southwest chose to sell off one of its planes rather than fire employees.”

From the Dallas Morning News: Why covering airlines around the genuinely friendly Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher could be ‘dangerous’

“Terry Maxon covered the airline industry for 25 years until he retired from The Dallas Morning News in 2015. This was adapted from his final blog post about covering Herb Kelleher.”

From Kevin and Jackie Freiberg: 20 Reasons Why Herb Kelleher Was One Of The Most Beloved Leaders Of Our Time

“Herb was repeatedly voted as the best CEO in the airline industry. And Fortune magazine noted, ‘Kelleher was perhaps the best CEO in America.’ Herb has been called a pioneer, fierce competitor and innovator. All of those labels ring true, but Herb was more than that. He changed the world.”

From Skip Prichard: Motivational Quotes from Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines

“Today I board a Southwest Airlines flight knowing that there’s a hole in the center of the heart-shaped corporate icon. Cofounder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, just passed away at the age of 87. He was a legend not only in the airline business, but in any type of business. He was a unique mix of innovation, motivation, and vision.”

From Joe Nocera: Only Herb Kelleher could make an airline revolution this fun

“The former chairman and chief executive of Southwest Airlines, who died Thursday, did the near impossible: building, from scratch, a consistently profitable airline that today carries more passengers than United Airlines.”

For some ideas about how to get more from this series of posts, check out “Studying Leaders in the Wild.

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