Building a People-focused Culture

According to Wikipedia Herbert D. Kelleher (born March 12, 1931) is the co-founder, Chairman and former CEO of Southwest Airlines (based in the United States).

Legend has it that Kelleher and one of his law clients, Texas businessman Rollin King, created the concept that later became Southwest Airlines on a cocktail napkin in a San Antonio restaurant. From its birth in 1971—after overcoming a year’s worth of legal challenges from competitors who tried to keep it grounded—Southwest has succeeded by daring to be different: offering low fares to its passengers by eliminating unnecessary services and avoiding the now-descredited “hub-and-spoke” scheduling system used by other airlines in favor of building traffic in such secondary airports as Albany, Chicago-Midway (instead of Chicago-O’Hare) and Orange County.

During his tenure as CEO of Southwest, Kelleher’s colorful personality created a corporate culture which made Southwest employees well-known for taking themselves lightly—often singing in-flight announcements to the tune of popular theme songs—but their jobs seriously: Southwest has never had an in-flight fatality, although a 6 year boy was killed on the ground when a Southwest jet skidded off a runway at Midway Airport in Chicago on December 8, 2005. Southwest is consistently named among the top five Most Admired Corporations in America in Fortune magazine’s annual poll. Fortune has also called him perhaps the best CEO in America.

Watching Herb Kelleher and enjoying his performance one question arises: What will Southwest do, if Kelleher is gone? Hopefully he is taking care of his successor …

Listen to his speech (load the attached podcast at the bottom) and have a look to the Q&A session, it is fun watching:


Sorry, the organizers ask me to remove the video!!! Sorry for that!!!!

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