Colleen Barrett of Southwest Airlines: Bringing LUV to Leadership

“Love” as the key ingredient to business success?  Ken Blanchard and Colleen Barrett make a convincing case in their new book, Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success.  I received an early manuscript of this new book (due out in January) after attending Barrett’s keynote address at The Ken Blanchard Companies annual client summit in San Diego last month.  Their basic formula is simple: Southwest succeeds because it treats employees with respect, practices The Golden Rule, and loves people for who they are.  In return, the company asks employees to treat customers in a similar manner.

It’s an approach that allows Southwest’s leadership to expect more—and receive more—from their people than other airlines.  Because employees know that leadership is on their side, leaders can confidently challenge and hold people accountable for meeting expectations.  It’s a business version of tough love that only works when employees know you care.

Interested in trying a little leadership love at your organization?  Here are three tips for getting started:

  1. Communicate your organizational mission and vision. Barrett explains that at Southwest, they are first and foremost in the customer service business—they just happen to express that service by providing airline transportation.
  2. Define the values that will guide behavior. At Southwest values start with safety and practicing the golden rule–treating people as you would like to be treated–as a foundation.  Three additional values of Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude guide employee behavior on a day-to-day basis.
  3. Combine caring with high expectations. Leaders at Southwest treat their people with respect, strive to bring out their best, and love their people for who they are.  In return, employees are expected to buy into the company’s mission, and to practice the company’s values with each other and customers.

What’s the level of leadership love in your organization?  Do employees know that leaders truly care about them?  It’s an essential ingredient at Southwest that has helped to create long-term success and a fun-loving culture in a challenging industry.  What could it do for you?

Win an Advance Copy of Ken and Colleen’s New Book!

Would you like to get a sneak peek at the unbound manuscript version of Bringing LUV to Leadership?  Rarely made public, we have a small number of extra copies from the proofing and review process that we are giving away this Friday.  To be entered into the drawing, just sign on as a fan at Ken Blanchard’s new Facebook Fan Page by 12 noon Pacific Time, Friday, April 9.  Everyone who is signed up as a fan by that time will automatically be entered into the drawing.  Good luck!

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