Whenever I fly on Southwest Airlines, I always scan through their inflight magazine “Southwest The Magazine.” I particularly love reading “Gary’s Greeting”, which is an introductory message from Chairman, President and CEO Gary Kelly. In the February 2016 edition, his piece titled “Taking Care of Each Other” piqued my interest even more than usual. The article was about what Kelly called the unique and special Culture (yes, with a capital C) of Southwest Airlines. If you are a frequent reader, you may be tired of hearing about my love of the LUV airline; however, I can’t help myself. The love is real and here’s why. In the second sentence of the article, he shares “It (referring to the Culture) really comes down to this: Southwest has always asked 3 basic things of our Employees– work hard, treat people with respect, and have a positive attitude and in all of those things, practice the Golden Rule.” I can’t think of better advice for anyone aspiring to live their best life and empowering others to do the same. Can you imagine how easily days would flow in our personal and professional lives if we followed these four simple principles? Here’s how applying the Southwest Culture to our daily lives can make us all better leaders.
1) Work Hard
Unfortunately, in the American culture today working hard has somehow evolved into working “non-stop.” However, whether we admit it or not that kind of hard work NEVER produces effective results. It drives me crazy to hear people say things like “I worked 80 hours this week and I had no time for myself or my family. I am so stressed.” How did we become so obsessed with work dictating our lives in this way that we wear it like a merit badge? Whenever I hear the concept of work hard, I translate that into “working smarter” which has very little to do with the amount of time you are putting in. Working smart requires energy, intention, focus, balance and prioritization. You become a master at choosing those things that will produce the most effective results and saying NO to those activities that don’t. You can’t possibly live your best life personally or professionally if you work yourself into the ground and detach from everyone around you. Leaders work hard by working smart.
2) Treat People with Respect
Oooooh, I love this one and sadly this is one I feel that is sorely missing in the world today. First let me say, notice that it doesn’t say treat others with respect? Others by the very word implies separation. Treat people with respect. It’s really disappointing that somehow over the last fifteen to twenty years, “we” have lost the art of being courteous and respectful to others. Don’t believe me? Just pay attention when you are out in the world to how often (or not), individuals talk on their cell phone while in front of the cashier in a checkout line, hold the door for other people when they are leaving or entering a building, say “thank you” to people serving them or worse never give the servers in a restaurant the courtesy of making eye contact and engaging in simple pleasantries? I am not going to speculate on the reason behind this lost art, I am simply saying treating people, including yourself, with respect is a requirement of being a leader. Being respectful means acknowledging individuals for who they are, appreciating their views even when different from yours and making them feel appreciated when they are with you. Leaders treat people with respect regardless of the circumstance.
3) Have a positive attitude
It always amazes me to see people who consider themselves leaders because they have the position or title to show for it, yet their attitude is crap. I mean really how many leaders do you know that are grouchy and rude or perhaps lackluster and “blah” or even worse fearful and suspicious. There is no possible way these negative attitudes can propel a person or organization forward long term or with withstanding results. We learned this basic principle in elementary school math: a minus sign subtracts from the equation while a positive adds to it. The same holds true with a person’s attitude. Being focused on seeing the good in every situation especially when good appears to be lacking is the only way to create outstanding results. Moreover, a positive attitude creates positive energy and demonstrates confident leadership, which in turn becomes contagious. All it takes to have a positive attitude is an instant shift in mindset. When things feel like they are headed down an uncomfortable path and negativity starts to rear its ugly head, find something beneficial that you can learn from in the situation that will propel you and your team forward. Leaders exude positivity in all situations.
4) Practice the Golden Rule
The most familiar interpretation of the Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you.” In my view this has always reminded me to think of how my actions also may impact another person. However, I think often the part that causes confusion or gets lost is the “as you would have them do unto to you.” This simple and powerful statement is dependent completely on the assumption that you have self-respect. Thus in order to follow the Golden Rule, the first thing I am responsible for is that I respect and love myself which requires a thorough self-awareness. It is critical to uncover and acknowledge your talents, skills, weaknesses, beliefs and emotions so that you can appreciate the amazing person you are. Without the foundation of self-respect, the Golden Rule is virtually impossible to practice. You can’t give what you don’t have which simply means that you cannot do good things for other people if you don’t do them for yourself. Leaders practice the Golden Rule for themselves first so they can impact others positively.
The Southwest Culture inspires me again! Leaders I encourage you to adopt their culture in your personal life and watch your personal and professional results fly to new heights! Work smart, treat people with respect, have a positive attitude and practice the Golden Rule for yourself and be the effective leader that your team knows you can be.