Magnificent leaders come in all shapes and styles, how they lead, how they message and the skills they bring are often very different but they all share a common belief – their people matter! This week’s guest embodies this like few do working for one of the most respected companies in the US – Southwest Airlines.
Ginger Hardage, Sr. Vice President Culture & Communications gave us a rare opportunity to peel back the layers and understand HOW to build and sustain a strong culture that drives innovation and retains great people.
Ginger was clear that a strong culture must be solidly built on measurable values that make sense to everyone. For Southwest Airlines, they have built their reputation on three very simple but unbelievably powerful values:
- Warrior Spirit – be the best, perseverance
- Servant’s Heart – always putting others first
- Fun Attitude – warm, open environment
Ginger was clear that it required a strong balance between these values and a focus on profitability. It is through the blending of the two that gave Southwest its No. 1 ranking in their industry while continuing to achieve profitable results – to the tune of paying $355,000,000 in profit-sharing to its employees in 2014! Everyone understands they play a role in the success of the company and through the profit-sharing, they are he able to continue to inspire and challenge their workforce to act like owners and drive innovation and continuous improvement.
So how do you as a leader also develop and strengthen a strong culture? According to Ginger all leaders must commit to:
- Hiring ONLY the best people.
- Developing and promoting within. She said currently there are several VP’s at SWA – one began in the mail room and many others on the ramp.
- Respecting and honoring individual career paths from the individual contributor to the career path climber.
- Building on people’s strengths.
- Communicate open and honestly and with authenticity.
Ginger provided so much more in our 30 minute interview with her. I encourage you to download the entire interview and subscribe to ensure you don’t miss out on one bit of this free advice. You know she is wise and doing it right when 71% of their 47,000 employees refer to their jobs as “a calling” — now this truly speaks to employee engagement.