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Herb Kelleher: Life and Career Report

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Updated: Nov 8th, 2021


In this paper, the life and leadership traits of Herb Kelleher are to be discussed and their effects on SouthWest Airlines as these were the airlines that are the most liked by the customers. In addition to this, the main values that reflect the leadership traits of Herb Kelleher that are being observed at SouthWest Airlines are to be discussed in this paper.


Success stories in the business world are well known but there are few whose lives are an example. These are the examples that have made greater changes in the businesses and have created revenues large enough to be estimated. The shining businessmen are those who believe in values being practiced in the workplaces where Herb Kelleher had his presence.


Life of Herb Kelleher

Haddon Heights has been known to be the birthplace of Herb Kelleher. A graduate of New York University, Herb Kelleher and one of his clients are the founders of the famous airlines today known as Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines thereby came into being in the year 1971. The client who worked along with Herb Kelleher was Herbert’s law client and a businessman in Texas (Drexler 10). After facing the toughest of competitions and challenges, Southwest airlines gained the greatest customer support as it offered the best of services with the lowest fares as Herbert knew that eliminating the unnecessary services can be strategic and this paid off (Porras 25).

Leadership traits in Herb Kelleher

Owing to the pleasant personality of Herb Kelleher and being the chairman of Southwest Airlines, it was made sure that the corporate culture was created at Southwest Airlines. During this time it was noticed that the employees enjoyed working at the Airlines and the times of the flights were seldom announced in a singing manner, often following the tunes of the famous songs at that time (Peterson 28).

Southwest Airlines

Herb Kelleher has been known to have the most charismatic leader and his leadership has made Southwest Airlines the best place to work at as has been said by Fortune magazine. This is the airline that has been seen as a representative of the vision that Herb Kelleher had. The dynamic and flamboyant personality that Herb Kelleher has made him one of the most talked-about businessmen in the world of great organizations (London 58).

According to Herb Kelleher, his greatest influence has been his mother as he mentions that the Second World War had been the time when he had lost most of his family members and at this time his mother had exhibited the strongest of her will and determination in order to keep together what was left (Fenster 75).

It has been seen that although Herb Kelleher is loud by nature still he had a windowless office at the Dallas headquarters of SWA. All of the employees at the airlines were made aware of their true worth and were being treated equally and this made them work with diligence and wholeheartedly at the airlines (Drexler 45). Kelleher used to work daily seven days a week. It has been known that Herb Kelleher had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in the year 1999 but still, he used to fly from Houston to Dallas to get his radiations and then back to work, this is the diligence that has paid off. Moreover, the leadership traits that have been reflected by Kelleher are to be good to others whether they are the employees with the lower ranks or the higher authorities. The culture that was being followed at the SWA was that all the employees felt at ease at work (London 12).

The values that have been emphasized to be practiced at SWA by Herb Kelleher include passion. During a speech at the University of Texas, the importance of passion while working was highlighted by Kelleher. In addition to these, consistency, focus on work, and informal communication are being practiced and emphasized by Herb Kelleher to be practiced at SWA.

Herb Kelleher has stepped down from the chairmanship of SWA in the year 2007 and the talks are already in the air if the new chairmanship can sustain the same rates of success as had been maintained by Herb Kelleher at SWA (Pearce 45).


Values that have been observed at SWA as introduced by Herb Kelleher are the ones that have made Southwest Airlines one of the most recommended airlines in the United States. The charismatic personality of Herb Kelleher along with the passion and dedication that he has for his work, are the factors that have made him one of the best CEOs in the United States.

Works Cited

Drexler, M. Kateri. Icons of business: an encyclopedia of mavericks, movers, and shakers, Volume 1 Greenwood icons. Greenwood Press, 2007.

Fenster, M. Julie. In the words of great business leaders. Wiley, 2000.

London, Gernstein, Joanne., and Kelleher, Herb. Fly Now!: A Colorful Story of Flight from Hot Air Balloon to the 777 Worldliner -the Poster Collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Travel Series. National Geographic Society, 2008.

Pearce, A. John., and Robinson, Braden, Richard. Strategic management: formulation, implementation, and control: Business week. 7th ed. Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Peterson, Sturken, Barbara. Bluestreak: inside JetBlue, the upstart that rocked an industry. Portfolio, 2004.

Porras, I. Jerry., Emery, Stewart., and Thompson, Mark. Success Built to Last: Creating a Life That Matters: Financial Times Series. Wharton School, 2006.

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