by DW Green — January 16, 2019
“Herb Kelleher, the fun-loving and wickedly witty Founder, Chairman Emeritus, and former CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co., died Thursday, January 3, 2019. He was 87.” —San Antonio Express-News Obituaries.
Mr. Kelleher and his business philosophy have been an inspiration to me. He believed in the importance of operating a business from a foundation of purpose. He believed that a successful business benefited all stakeholders, not just shareholders. We strive to do the same thing. Herb Kelleher was a brilliant leader and innovator. Truly a legend in his lifetime.
In his HBR article, The Legacy of Herb Kelleher, Cofounder of Southwest Airlines, author Bill Taylor wrote “…here’s what’s so vital for us to understand about what Herb Kelleher built — the essential piece of his legacy. To him, Southwest Airlines was never just a company. It was a cause. The goal was not just to keep fares low and fly to more cities. The goal, in his words, was to “democratize the skies” — to make it as easy, affordable, and flexible, for average Americans to travel as it had always been for business travelers and the affluent. That mission may seem quaint now (mainly because Kelleher succeeded), but back when he started it was a revolutionary aspiration — and an essential contribution to America’s quality of life.
In other words, it’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for. He insisted that Southwest was not really in the airline business. It was in the freedom business — its purpose was to give tens of millions of people “the freedom to fly,” even if that meant building a company that defied industry conventions at every turn. Business strategies change. Market positioning changes. But purpose does not change. Everybody at Southwest is a freedom fighter.
Kelleher understood better than any CEO I ever met that your brand is the outward expression of your culture, and that your culture is the only platform that can sustain and renew your brand.
Southwest was wildly successful over decades because it was slow to change rather than because it was eager to change.”
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