Do You Feel The LUV at Work?

Do You Feel the LUV at Work?

It’s all about the culture within.

How often do you hear a CEO declare with pride that his or her organisation has never had a layoff, furlough or bankruptcy?

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly made that statement recently at the University of Denver’s Voices of Experience, an annual opportunity to hear CEO business leaders speak about the lessons they have learned from years of experience. I always enjoyed the privilege of hearing these leaders speak, and I’m always curious to see how they manifest the courage necessary to become an effective leader.

The culture within

A sure sign of effective leadership is the culture it creates.


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Employees operating in a courageous leadership culture will demonstrate twelve well-defined courage actions, actions like revealing vulnerability, instilling self-discipline and celebrating success.

In an organisation with a courageous leadership culture, status quo and mediocrity simply are not acceptable, a position repeatedly emphasised by the late Steve Jobs.

During his talk, Kelly proclaimed his pride in Southwest Airlines’ emphasis on “Luv,” a “cute” tagline that actually reveals a lot about the company’s culture of courageous leadership.

After all, when was the last time you heard the word “love” used at work? Kelly even showed the attendees some luv with a $50.00 airfare gift certificate and bags of peanuts and pretzels. More significantly, Kelly was pleased to share that his employees are the best-paid in the industry. Kelly said a big part of Southwest’s cultural focus favours “how people feel.”

This focus on employees certainly contradicts the nationwide trend of dispirited workers who disengage at work, simply putting in their time to collect a paycheck.


“Southwest believes that our employees are the heart of the culture. We take time to recognise, reward and celebrate our employees,” including a monthly celebration of employee excellence called the “Winning Spirit Award.”

This focus on employees certainly contradicts the nationwide trend of dispirited workers who disengage at work, simply putting in their time to collect a paycheck. Gary said he believes his “employees love what they do.” If you love what you do, you feel self-fulfilled, and that’s the ultimate in courage consciousness!

“Every company has a culture. The question is how you are going to model it,” Gary continued. “You do it by spending time with people and putting the people first!”

Asked if he was ever intimidated by former boss and co-founder Herb Kelleher, who demonstrated a relentless focus and strategic business prowess, Gary said, “I don’t think I was intimidated. No, I would not use that word. I have worked for Southwest since 1986 first as the controller and then in 1989 as the chief financial officer and vice president of finance. Herb was my mentor. His office is still 100 yards away, but he never butts in. Besides, you either sink or swim, and that takes courage! So, I would say we collaborated.”

Key leadership skills

Collaboration is a courage action that leads to accountability and positive results. Along with collaboration comes connection and contribution.

Most people more easily recognise the courage killers that keep organisations in StuckThinking™. Courage killers include conformity, complacency, complaining and corruption.

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Accelerate Aug 2015 IssueAs featured in the August 2015 issue of Accelerate Magazine. This article is locked for further viewing. Please consider subscribing to Accelerate to view this and many more great articles. You can choose to purchase an annual subscription or just a single issue.

Deep Creek Lake 900 image courtesy Jade@morguefile.com

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