Herb Kelleher (1931 – 2019)

This week’s TIME had an obit piece on the beloved Founder/CEO of Southwest Airlines as penned by the CEO of American Airlines:

“He was a pioneer in low-cost air travel, boiling the business down to essentials. His underlying the notion was that if you deliver a quality product and treat people well, customers will come back and employees will do their best.” –Robert Crandall on Herb Kelleher’s passing

A few quotes by Kelleher that struck me profoundly this evening:

  • “We have a strategic plan. It’s called ‘doing things.’”
  • “When someone comes to me with a cost saving idea, I don’t immediately jump up and say yes. I ask: what’s the effect on the customer?”
  • “You can’t really be disciplined in what you do unless you are humble and open-minded. Humility breeds open-mindedness—and really, what we try to do is establish a clear and simple set of values that we understand. That simplifies things; that expedites things. It enables the extreme discipline I mentioned in describing our strategy. When an issue comes up, we don’t say we’re going to study it for two and a half years. We just say, ‘Southwest Airlines doesn’t do that. Maybe somebody else does, but we don’t.’ It greatly facilitates the operation of the company.”
  • “Treat your employees like customers.”
  • “I’ve always been able to make erroneous decisions very quickly.”
  • “If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.”
  • “Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats, and leadership really involves responsibility.”
  • “If employees aren’t satisfied, they won’t promote the product we need.”

Two other unrelated quotes I liked from the same issue of TIME:

“Are you working, but also are you growing?” –Ken Jeong

“Reckoning with contradiction is what makes us most alive — if only because it requires more energy than simply registering our disapproval.” –Stephanie Zacharek

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