Herbert D. Kelleher

Herbert D. Kelleher
Herbert D. Kelleher
  • From:

    Southwest Airlines Co. | Dallas, Texas

  • Year:

    2003

  • Subject:

    Leadership

  • Award:

    Bower Award for Business Leadership

  • Citation:

    Herb Kelleher who, as founder and chairman of the board of Southwest Airlines, has shown the world that business and technological success are best achieved and enjoyed by inspiring, supporting, and celebrating people and their accomplishments. Under his leadership, Southwest Airlines has realized 29 consecutive years of growth and profitability through a focus on customer service, efficiency, and exemplary employee relations.

Herbert Kelleher has applied much of the same spirit of pioneering perseverance to building Southwest Airlines that the Wright brothers applied to achieve powered flight 100 years ago. Southwest has a unique company culture and an esprit de corps unmatched in the industry today. With bedrock values grounded in ethics, and success fueled by treating individuals with dignity, Kelleher's reputation and that of his company have become legendary.

Today, the thriving company averages 2,800 flights a day with a staff of 35,000, who consider themselves family. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Southwest ranks number one in customer satisfaction--a spot it has held since the early 1990s.

Kelleher is committed to his firm, the business community, and society at large. He leads the sponsorship of the Southwest Airlines LUV Classic golf tournament, which to date has raised $4.8 million to benefit the Ronald McDonald Houses. He also is active in many industry and community activities including his Adopt-a-Pilot program, which unites 10- to 12-year old students with Southwest pilots to explore math and science and their application to aviation. Since its inception in 1997, this program has touched the lives of 20,000 children.

More than 100 business awards and honors from all across America recognize Kelleher's achievements as a leader and entrepreneur. From president of his class at Haddon Heights High School, N.J., to president of the student body at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, to New York University, where he earned his LL.B. with honors in 1956, Kelleher has displayed exceptional leadership skills.

Southwest Airlines has remained profitable because of its efficiency and focus on customers and employees.

By emphasizing the importance of every member of the company team, Kelleher built a culture focused on success and satisfaction for all.

Southwest Airlines has expanded its service to fifty-seven airports across the United States.

In 1971, Rollin King approached Kelleher to start an airline company with flights between San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.

Information as of April 2003