One of the friends that I was with last week at the Cardinal / Cub series is a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines. When I train leaders on servant leadership and driving a purpose driven, values based culture, I often use Colleen Barrett (Past President) and Southwest Airlines (SWA) as a positive example of a servant leader and an outstanding culture.

I took the opportunity to ask my friend, and an employee of SWA, a number of questions about their culture and what it is like to work for SWA. I have experienced their culture as a customer, but I was curious to hear comments about what it is like from an employee’s viewpoint.

Just like I would have suspected, this employee couldn’t wait to share his views on what an outstanding company SWA is to work for. He indicated that Colleen and her philosophy about “Leading with LUV” is still very much part of their culture even a few years after her retirement. He says that employees feel their value and their importance to the success of the organization every day.

A few keys to the success of the SWA culture according to an employee who gets to live it  and play it out everyday would include:

  • Extremely well defined values
  • People are hired for their values and asked to be themselves everyday, nothing more.
  • The larger the organization gets, the more important it is to keep things simple.
  • Focus on and take care of employees, who in turn take care of customers.
  • Respect everyone.
  • Have fun!

I don’t know of a better testimony than an employee glowing about how fantastic it is to work for a company and serve their customers. Clearly the employees at SWA feel great about their leaders choosing behaviors of love and serving their people. The success of SWA is truly an example for all of us on the positive impact of being intentional about driving a purpose driven, values based culture that is focused on servant leadership. We all have that opportunity, and it is up to us to not let it go to waste.

Thanks to the leaders and employees of SWA for providing all of us with a great model.

Mark Deterding