Let’s Honor the Memory & Legacy of Herb Kelleher, Founder of Southwest Airlines

To honor the memory and legacy of Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines and the original disruptor, let’s collaborate instead of compete.


I’m not talking just about the airline industry. I’m talking about leaders in Fortune 10 companies and leaders in start-ups and everyone in between. Let’s build connections with our colleagues instead of relying on ego to edge others out to make ourselves look like a rock star.


Herb was a rock star. He was a rock star because knew how to build connections and he did that intuitively and instantly. He made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him, according to the Dallas Morning News.


He knew instinctively that to build anything, a team, a project or an airline, he would need to rely on others to get the real work done.

He knew that in order to be able to rely on others he needed to trust them.

In order for them to gain his trust, he needed to be trustworthy first.

He knew he needed to do what he said he was going to do. He knew he needed to stay focused on the facts and not make assumptions or allegations. He knew he needed to lead by example and by building trusting relationships based on mutual respect with all his colleagues, his employees, and his customers.


Herb walked his talk. He engaged others quickly and meaningfully and then he nurtured those connections by being straightforward, honest and by negotiating expectations at every juncture. He didn’t just communicate his vision up front and then walk away. He stayed engaged with the front line Pilots, flight attendants, and Ticket Counter Agents who he gave full authority to do whatever was required to earn the customer’s trust and nurture that customer relationship for the future.


If you are leading a Fortune 10 company or are a Founder of a start-up relying on 2-3 folks, ask yourself,,

  • Who on my team needs time with me?
  • How can I make that time available when I won’t be distracted by any urgent situations?
  • How can I create an environment where this person feels safe enough to express their accomplishments so I know more about them and their capacity?
  • How can I ask questions to draw them out?
  • How can I share myself?
  • How can I share my own fears and concerns and make them feel safe to do likewise?


If you want to get out of reactive mode and work smarter, not harder by being strategic and relying on trusted colleagues to drive results, these questions will build the connections, the mutual respect and the trust required.


Regardless of your stature in your career, it’s likely you are working harder than you need or want to. Equally as important, it’s likely your team is also working with this same intensity and fast-paced, long-hour model that impairs our judgment and breaks down our connections with each other.


So, in honor of Herb, take the afternoon off and give your colleagues permission to do likewise.


Go for a walk in the woods or a hike by a stream. Spend time with your loved ones. Open up and share yourself with anyone.


Enjoy life, relax and be prepared on Monday to honor Herb further by making these simple, practical approaches part of your work day, every day.


This is how you integrate a merger or an acquisition. This is how you grow your company. This is how your grow your Net Worth.

These are not difficult approaches but they do require you to get out of your comfort zone. If you can’t do it for yourself or your loved ones or your team, then do it for Herb.




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