Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Herb Kelleher, Approachable Leader

How approachable are you as a leader? Here is a quote about Herb Kelleher, the iconic force behind Southwest Airlines - the only airline profitable every year after its first, 36 years ago.

A pilot reports, "I can call Herb today. You don't just call and say there's a problem. He'll say, "Think about it and tell me the solution that you think will work." He has an open door policy. I can call him almost 24 hours a day. If it's an emergency, he will call back in 15 minutes. He is one of the inspirations for this company. He's the guiding light. He listens to everybody. He's unbelievable when it comes to personal etiquette. If you've got a problem, he cares."

Herb Kelleher is a phenomenal leader, and his company is incredibly successful. Coincidence? Or imperative?

I highly recommend the book where I found this quote, The Southwest Airlines Way by Jodi Gittell, head of Brandies University's MBA program. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b/002-2106831-1004812?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+southwest+airlines+way&x=16&y=15.

(Interesting note: Did you notice how Kelleher forces his people to develop their problem-solving skills by asking them their advice? A leader who is accessible and comes up with the solutions is not going to have much time for more than putting out fires, and his company will not grow all that far. In this example we see that yes, he is thoroughly accessible and he cares, but as you'll read, he does not dole out solutions. His people think for themselves, and that means they don't have to call him all that often to bail them out.

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