Nielsen: They Lead with Love

Imagine how you would feel if a highly successful, internationally respected business leader said this about you. Not only said it, but wrote it in a book for the entire world to see and read:

“She has ensured that no grief goes unattended; that no joy goes unshared; that each achievement is celebrated; and that those requiring help receive it.

She has made successes of people who thought they were destined for failure and has administered necessary discipline with care, thoughtfulness, understanding, and, ultimately, pure and unflinching justice leavened by mercy. And, always, her unadulterated focus has fastened on what is good, egalitarian, and right for all of the people, not just a favored few.”

Those words were written by one of the most successful leaders in aviation history, Herb Kelleher, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher was describing Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines.

In the recently published book entitled Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success, Colleen Barrett and Ken Blanchard describe, in detail, how Colleen Barrett and Herb Kelleher led Southwest Airlines from literally ‘a hope and a dream written on one side of a napkin’ to become a phenomenally successful and consistently profitable organization.

What was and is the essential and over-riding leadership philosophy and strategy of this phenomenally successful company? Colleen Barrett describes it simply and succinctly; they lead with love!

Say what?  That’s right.  They lead with love.

In the foreword of the book Kelleher also writes:

For those who might think that leading with love is simply ‘soft management,’ review the record of Southwest Airline over the last forty years.  Southwest’s people have produced an unprecedented and unparalleled record of job security, customer satisfaction, and shareholder return. From these results, it can factually and logically be concluded that if you seek long and continued success for your business organization, treat your people as family and LEAD WITH LOVE.

So how does one lead with love? Two suggestions:  

  1. Stay tuned… we will discuss this topic next week in this column.
  2. Buy the book and study it carefully.  You will find dozens of great examples, strategies and suggestions that can be applied or adapted to your organization and implemented immediately. 


Copyright © 2011 by Dan Nielsen,

Founder, National Institute for Healthcare Leadership

Cell 214-695-1292

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