For almost four decades, President Emeritus Colleen Barrett has symbolized the heart of Southwest Airlines–and she epitomizes the concept of Servant Leader. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to receive a personal letter from Colleen, or to be mentored in person by this amazing woman, will know what a huge heart she possesses. In fact, I think her outlook on life and business is revolutionary because she can meld the most complex of job duties into one universal function–Customer Service. She often tells us that Southwest is a Customer Service Company in the business of air transportation.
It’s important to differentiate that going through one’s required job duties may be a form of customer service, but it isn’t Southwest Customer Service. Naturally, we demand that our Employees in safety-related positions comply with all required procedures, but we hope they will do it in a way that also reflects Golden Rule behavior. Another unique view of Customer Service from Colleen is that every Employee has a direct Customer, be it a Passenger or Fellow Employee. Besides having Internal Customers, all Southwest Employees are considered Leaders, even if they don’t have “Supervisor” or “Manager” in their titles. Colleen has taught us that both Customer Service and Servant Leadership involve putting others’ needs ahead of your own. With her transition away from daily operational duties, Colleen finally has had the chance to share her thoughts about customer Service and Servant Leadership with the general public, and in conjunction with best-selling author Ken Blanchard, she has written Lead With LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success.
One of the things that Colleen has asked of Southwest Employees is to be honest about our shortcomings and our strengths, and she certainly follows The Golden Rule by mentioning (and owning) her own shortcomings in writing this book. Yet, the book isn’t really about Colleen; it’s about the way our Employees have embraced her outlook on life, on serving others, on what defines success, and on humility.
As a longtime Employee, I “hear” Colleen’s voice on every page of the book, and all of us at SWA are thrilled that we can share our “Mom” outside our Company. Whether it’s talking about personal development or leading a Fortune 500 company, Colleen and Ken’s book offers a unique perspective on the path to success.
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