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14 Ways to be a Leader

Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman of Southwest Airlines, delivered a speech
of a lifetime at the 2004 McCombs BBA Commencement. As commencement approaches for 2014, we’re pleased to present “14 Ways to be a Leader.”

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14 Ways to be a Leader

  1. 1. from Herb Kelleher WAYS TO BE A LEADER14 10th EditionpAnniversary
  2. 2. Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman of Southwest Airlines, delivered a speech of a lifetime at the 2004 McCombs BBA Commencement.
  3. 3. Ten years later, since retiring from his leadership role at Southwest, Kelleher remains an astute and beloved commentator on life, business, and the principles of success. As commencement approaches for 2014, we’re pleased to present “14 Characteristics of an Effective Leader.”
  4. 4. Be genuinely interested in, and like, people1
  5. 5. Show tolerance, patience, respect, and empathy. People will respond with a desire to perform because they want to, not because they have to. An organization bound by love is far more powerful than one bound by fear.
  6. 6. Have respect for the worth of every job and task, and for the person doing it 2
  7. 7. Respect excellent performance. Position and title, in and of themselves alone, signify nothing.
  8. 8. Work harder than anyone working with you3
  9. 9. Convince people that accomplishment is important, by your actions.
  10. 10. Have a modicum of domain knowledge in order to make sound judgments 4
  11. 11. Louis B. Mayer, founder of MGM Studios said, “How can you teach the cook to make soup if you don’t know how to make soup yourself?” That doesn’t mean you have to be a soup chef to be the leader of Campbell Soup. There is a difference between “micromanagement,” which deprives others of initiative, creativity, and growth, and “micro-knowledge,” which aids in making excellent leadership decisions.
  12. 12. Have a sense of humor 5
  13. 13. Don’t sweat the small stuff — fun relieves strain and promotes enjoyment, harmony, and efficiency. Allow people to be themselves in the work place, to have fun at what they’re doing, and their bodies will show up early, while their minds stay late. You don’t have to look and act like a brick to be a successful leader.
  14. 14. Maintain a real open door policy Check your desk calendar to see if you’re really doing it. 6
  15. 15. One of our officers said to me years ago: “Herb, it’s harder for me to get in to see you than it is for a mechanic, a pilot, a flight attendant, or a reserva- tions agent.” I said in reply: “I can explain that to you very easily — they’re more important than you are!”
  16. 16. Make decisions quickly7 There is no perfect knowledge.
  17. 17. Focus on the externalities, the world outside your institution; speedily gather the available facts; quickly do the analysis and discuss it with the appropriate people; and go to it. Do not endlessly plan, discuss, and study in an ef- fort to avoid the risk involved in actually making a decision.
  18. 18. Communicate goals with frequency and passion8
  19. 19. If you don’t communicate what you value and where you’re going with passion, why would anyone else choose to go with you?
  20. 20. 9 Value diversity in organizations
  21. 21. A multitude of people with the same looks, origins, backgrounds, thoughts, and philosophies will lead you to a harmonious, placid, contented, and self- satisfied organizational end result: disaster.
  22. 22. Emphasize substance over form10
  23. 23. Rules, organizational manuals, computers, and such are servants, not masters — they are the means to an end, not ends in and of themselves. In a business context, always remember what you ultimately have in your hand when something is printed out: not action, but merely little black marks on a white sheet of paper.
  24. 24. Be “jazzed” by problem solving11 The same way that a fireman gets a “buzz” out of extinguishing fires.
  25. 25. The worst problem you’ll ever have is the problem you won’t acknowledge and address.
  26. 26. Have foresight, an exceptional attention span, relational, synergistic thinking, and be prepared to adjust 12
  27. 27. There is security only in readiness to change direction (not principles).
  28. 28. 13 Set as your goals achievement and excellence — for your self-satisfaction
  29. 29. Money and happiness are byproducts only — byproducts of achievement and of excellence. Someone will always have more money than you do and someone will always be giddier than you are — but they may not have the same feeling of self- satisfaction and self-worth that you do — if you have been excellent at whatever you do.
  30. 30. Get rid of management 14
  31. 31. With respect to the value of leadership, a United Technologies ad of some years ago sums it up pretty well, in my estimation. Its title is: “Let’s get rid of management.”
  32. 32. Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines co-founder, is known for his colorful personality and departure from traditional airline and corporate doctrine, which made him one of America’s most high-profile CEOs. Founder of the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at the McCombs School of Business, a hub for students and faculty to support research and education in entrepreneurship.
  33. 33. “How do you wish to be remembered by your children and grandchildren — as a leader or a follower?” - Herb Kelleher www.mccombs.utexas.edu /UTMcCombsSchool @utexasmccombs