Herb Kelleher was the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, he died earlier this month. He had many attributes that I admire, not least of which was introducing a culture to the company where Southwest’s employees took themselves lightly but their jobs seriously.
Kelleher had a simple philosophy, “A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy, so they keep coming back. It’s not one of the enduring mysteries of all time; it is just the way it works.”
An article in the FT Michael Skapinker which celebrated Herb, contrasted his outlook with a recent email from a disappointed British Airways passenger. Skapinker concluded with this statement, “few people come to work intending to be unhelpful. If they are horrible, it is usually because their bosses are horrible to them, or they prioritise sticking to the rules, or cutting costs, over keeping customers happy.”
In 1987 Michael O’Leary (of RyanAir) visited Southwest Airlines and Herb Kelleher to learn about the airline industry. Although there were plans for them to meet again, O’Leary never went back to complete his tuition.
Read more about Southwest’s business model here.