What We Can Learn About Servant Leadership From Southwest Airlines

January 3, 2018 0 Comments
servant leadership

For over 50 years, Southwest Airlines has been transporting travelers and standing out as a favorite in the airline industry. 

Traveling can be stressful, uncomfortable and a real hassle, especially when the carrier you fly with is all but accommodating.  

Southwest challenges the norm and organizes their efforts like a “pyramid,”  and that is what makes them different from most big corporations. 

The top of the pyramid is their employees. Southwest makes it a priority to create the most productive, supportive work environment where employees will feel valued and capable. 

When employees feel supported, they can focus their attention on the passengers and offer an exceptional customer service experience. If the customer experience is great, they will come back and continue to build a relationship with Southwest. 

Naturally, this pleases shareholders, and all parties involved are happy. How does Southwest do it? 

Servant Leadership

Employees are the priority because Southwest understands that they are the foundation of any company’s success. Much like a celebrity without fans, a business is nothing without its people. 

1. Be a follower and leader.

Servant leaders are also great followers, and happy to do so. They empower their employees to lead, take action and capitalize on their strengths, even if that means the leader becomes the follower. 

2. Serve as a team.

Southwest employs over 55,000 people. Even with so many employees scattered all over the country, they still highlight the importance of “us” over “me,” and align their actions around that. 

Every Southwest employee is a servant leader. If a passenger needs help, they take over the situation and work hard to make things right. When a challenging situation arises, everyone works together to solve it. 

3. Appreciate every team member, task, role and job.

There is no hierarchy of who is more important or who is less. Every new Southwest employee completes a 6-month intro period where they work in a different role other than their own. 

This allows employees to understand and respect every facet of the business that goes into a successful whole. It also reaffirmed their commitment to the company. 

4. Treat your people like people.

Southwest encourages diversity, individuality, personality and humanity in their employees. Everyone is encouraged to be themselves, which naturally builds enthusiasm and interest in the company. 

They also have fun. Work isn’t just a place Southwest employees go for several hours a day; they also enjoy being there and the people they work with. 

5. Prioritize people over profit.

Like we said at the start, Southwest prioritizes their employees first, passengers second and shareholders third. 

Their philosophy is that by serving and supporting your employees, results will naturally come — the essence of servant leadership. 

Let us know if you’ve had an experience with Southwest and their servant leadership style, in the comments below. 

Image attribution.

Article Name
What We Can Learn About Servant Leadership From Southwest Airlines
For over 50 years, Southwest Airlines has been a market leader and servant leader. See what can we learn from Southwest about priorities, leadership and people. 

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