Management Articles


A CEO with Emotional Intelligence

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

Herb Kelleher was on my recent Southwest Airlines flight from San Antonio to Dallas – of all things! As you know, he was the president of Southwest, the man who made it a success. Then he resigned, I think he must be about 70, and is now Chairman of the Board. Whatever his title, he still considers himself “Southwest Airlines” and so will you if you ever meet him.

Herb Kelleher did not follow the rules, he broke them.

Since the beginning of time, full meals had been served on airlines. They were horrible, they were the stock-and-trade of every comedian, they must cost thousands to carry off, bad as they are, and yet they endured.

Herb, however, broke that rule (and many others) and the result is that Southwest Airlines is one of our best success stories.

One of the most famous stories of this hands-on CEO was when he intervened on the behalf of union workers and then asked them in return to break the record for turnaround time at the gate. Which they did. Southwest is known for its friendly labor relations in a rough industry.

About Herb. He got on the plane with a big grin and walked down the aisle greeting everyone and shaking hands, as if 'this is my plane and you are my people.'. He was obviously having the time of his life. What a display of Emotional Intelligence competencies!

I was in a window seat so didn't get to interact with him, and I felt left out. He's contagious. Anyone who's having fun like that, I want to be around! Talk about approachable.

He built such an image of himself AS Southwest Airlines, I felt like I wanted to thank him personally for all that SW made possible for me. Both my sons and my family live in towns served by SW and it made frequent visits possible, as well as many vacations. Peanuts are fine with me!

So when we got off in Dallas, he was walking right behind me, and I turned and held out my hand and said, "Herb, great ride, how do you do it?" and we took it from there.

Herb loves what he's doing.

It shows, doesn't it?

Do you?

If you haven't "found your passion" yet, or developed your Emotional Intelligence, I recommend coaching.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2003

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

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