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The Leadership Equation: Faithfulness, Humility, and Servanthood

In the [previous post][1], we discussed the importance of the foundational characteristics of integrity and truthfulness in leading others. Let’s continue to look at how good leaders enable the trust of others through faithfulness, humility, and servanthood.

    \[ l_i = \left ( i_1 + t + f + h + \frac{s_1}{s_2} + c_1 + j\right )\left ( w_1 + u + l + \frac{s_3}{a} + e \right )\left ( w_2 + \frac{m_1}{m_2} + c_2  \right ) \]

where l_i = leadership/influence, f = faithfulness, h = humility, and s_1 = servanthood </div> Instead of describing each characteristic and the impact, we will move from the theoretical to a real-world example, and discuss the person who is credited for Southwest Airlines corporate culture and results – Colleen Barrett. Barrett was the President and COO of Southwest Airlines until 2008. **Southwest Airlines Success** I admire Southwest Airlines. The locals here in Charleston, SC met the announcement of Southwest flights to/from CHS with great fanfare not just because of reduced ticket prices. Southwest Airlines is also know for their exceptional customer service and focus on their employees. As a result, Southwest is the most profitable airline and the only remaining profitable airline post 9-11. Many business experts credit this success to Colleen Barrett, who joined a fledging airline as the corporate secretary and tranformed the organization over 30+ years through her influence. **Humble Roots** Barrett loved the law but the lacked the money to go to law school. Instead of law school, Barrett attended and graduated from junior college in 1968 and got a job as a legal secretary for Herb Kelleher, the eventual co-founder of Southwest Airlines. Barrett officially joined Southwest as corporate secretary in 1978 though helped Kelleher get the airline off the ground through numerous documented legal proceedings. She eventually rose through the ranks until she retired as President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines. Barrett is not your typical Ivy League, MBA toting executive. Barrett always remembered her origins and is known for her folksy style, humility, and her willingness to be subject to others. She dresses casually and sends birthday cards to each employee. As a leader, Barrett once said, “I was mentored and coached almost from the get-go, and it caused me to think, as I watched other people struggle to do the same sort of thing, to never forget where you come from and to pay back.” While many executives for similar sized companies earn millions in annual salary, Barrett earned roughly $350k annually. Southwest was born out of a reaction to the arrogance of major airlines and the way they treated their customers. Barrett once stated that “in all sincerity, what I did think was that we might not be too long in the air. The thing that kept us going was the arrogance of our competitors.” **Steadfast and Faithful** Barrett was indispensable to Kelleher as a legal secretary and worked many 16-hours day in helping him gain legal approval for the airline. The success of Southwest is a result of her faithfulness to the original business plan to provide a low-cost, no-frills, point-to-point airline that focuses on customer service. She never let the company waiver through many hard times including 9/11. Barrett was appointed President four months before 9/11, and persevered through the aftermath without incurring layoffs, and continued to make a profit. When other leaders panicked and cut back during the time, she continued to lead through adversity. **Servant Leadership** Barrett is often mentioned in relation to servant leadership. The management style she crafted along with Kelleher is built upside down in comparison to other companies. The pyramid of the company’s priorities has the employees at the top and the executives deliver proactive customer service to them. If they do a good job, the employee can spend their time to service the second important group, the customers. The focus on the employees enables a great, fun, corporate culture, which produces great customer service, and has created the profitable company that is Southwest. I have included an interview with Colleen Barrett at the Warton School of the University of Pennsylvania. I know 25 minutes is a lot to ask, but the interview reveals Colleen’s sincerity. At the 4:30 mark, she discussed servant leadership. Enjoy! <img src="" alt="Collen Barrett" width=610 height=458 border=0 /> [1]: /posts/the-leadership-equation-truthfulness-and-integrity/

In Leadership (Colleen Barrett, Faithfulness, Humility, Leadership, Servant, Southwest)
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