At the center of the most successful brands that we have worked with is a management style that can be described as servant leadership. This is a people-first approach.
But can you build your brand this way in a competitive industry?
Colleen Barrett is an inspiration to me, not because she is the president emeritus of Southwest Airlines and winner of the Tony Jannus Award in 2007 and the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 2016, but because at the center of her work is valuing people. This is how she describes bringing these principles to life:
“Over the years, all of the leaders at Southwest Airlines have tried to model servant leadership. Herb Kelleher, our founder, led the way clearly — although I don’t think he knew what the expression “servant leadership” meant until we told him. For over four decades, Herb and I have said that our purpose in life as senior leaders with Southwest Airlines is to serve our people. To us, that means treating people like family.
We want each of our people to realize they have the potential to be a leader. They can make a positive difference in anybody’s work and life, regardless of whether they are in a management position. So we try to hire leaders, no matter what role we want them to fill. Our entire philosophy of leadership is quite simple: treat your people right, and good things will happen.
Not only do we serve and care about our people, but we empower them to use common sense and good judgment. Yes, we have written rules and procedures, and you can go look at them, but we say to our folks every day, “The rules are guidelines. We can’t sit in Dallas, Texas, and write a rule for every single scenario you’re going to run into. You’re out there. You’re dealing with the public. You can tell in any given situation when a rule should be bent or broken. You can tell because it’s simply the right thing to do in the situation you are facing.”
We have had pilots pay for hotel rooms because our customers were getting off at different cities than they intended for the night, and the pilots could see the people needed help. They don’t call and ask, “Is it OK? Will I get reimbursed?” They do these things because that’s the kind of people they are.
Servant leadership and empowering your people is not soft management. It is management that not only gets great results but generates great human satisfaction for both employees and customers.”
Try: Connect with your leadership team this week and discuss ways in which you will make 2020 more satisfying for all your stakeholders.