The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service

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Leadership: Lead from the Front

Throughout my time at Southwest, I’ve served in a number of roles, starting as a Ramp Agent in Detroit and working my way around our network and into my current role as our Vice President Ground Operations. All of these experiences have given me a front row seat to learn from other Leaders and then to decide what Leadership means to me personally.

For me, being a Leader consists of many things: earning the trust of your Team, being vulnerable, being willing to ask questions, and valuing the opinion of others.

It means showing Hospitality to your Team—how can you ensure every Employee feels welcomed, cared for, and appreciated? We must all create and maintain a Culture where our People want to show up and then feel seen and heard. It’s my responsibility to encourage others to consider different viewpoints, be kind to those with differing opinions, and to ensure we are doing our part to expand the opportunities available to Employees.

We are all Leaders, on some level. I want our Team to have the knowledge, tools, and resources to go make the best decision for the Customer or the situation at hand. Our Employees are empowered to do what they can to take care of a Customer based on that particular person’s circumstances. At the end of the day, they are the ones on the frontlines, ensuring our Customers have a great experience.

I have always put an emphasis on being visible in our operation. To be a good Leader, you need to be witnessing what your Team is experiencing—offering feedback, celebrating the wins, and working together to make improvements when necessary. Leaders are responsible for creating the ecosystem they want for their Team, and you build that by engaging with your Employees and taking the time to understand their perspectives.

I encourage you to take the time to think about the kind of Leader you want to be—and then be intentional about acting on it. There is no greater calling than serving others.


Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Vice President Ground Operations

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