Herb Kelleher, the late founder of Southwest Airlines was famous for his straight talk and warm humor.
Right up to his death last year at the age of 87, he was an unapologetic Wild Turkey drinker and cigarette smoker, who was still tickled by Southwest’s success over the years.
Clearly, he had a feel for people and the confidence to get big things done. But his real secret weapon seems to be his humility.
In an interview on NPR’s “How I Built This” with Guy Raz, two years ago Kelleher told his story.
His humility comes out right away, in the first few seconds in fact.
Raz addresses him as “Mr. Kelleher” and Kelleher immediately replies with “Make it Herb, if you would please.”
He then goes on to explain how other airlines sued Southwest to keep it from launching. He talked about its discount strategy and the choice to not serve meals on flights.
Kelleher has a gift for weaving innovation, common sense and humility into every decision.
At one point in the interview, he sums up the driving principle of his business philosophy:
“Think small and act small, and we’ll get bigger. Think big and act big, and we’ll get smaller.”
Act like a big shot, and you will lose touch and eventually take a big fall.
However, if you can retain your humility, stay hungry, and keep thinking small, growth will happen.
Start small. Keep it simple. And stay humble – like Herb – if you want to make it big.
Have a great week.
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