Despite soaring fuel costs and a glut of domestic airline seats, Southwest Airlines reported its 32nd consecutive annual profit in 2004. At that year’s McCombs BBA commencement, Herb Kelleher, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, delivered the keynote remarks in a lecture entitled “Fourteen Ways to Be a Leader.”
Kelleher began by proclaiming the commencement to be a splendid occasion. “Why? Because you are the kind of audience I crave; you have to listen to my thoughts, no matter how dull, how puerile, or even how depraved those thoughts might be,” he said with a grin.
The address that followed was classic Kelleher.
Ten years later, since retired from his leadership role at Southwest, Kelleher remains an astute and beloved commentator on life, business, and the principles of success. As commencement approaches for 2014, we’re pleased to present “Fourteen Ways to Be a Leader, Centennial Edition” with one modification (point No. 4), suggested by Kelleher in retrospect.
“We give ourselves license to play a little faster and looser than we normally would.”
College football fans always wondered when Joe Paterno’s football career would begin to slow down. The answer came this week with a sudden, whiplash-inducing crash. From USA Today:
A little more than a week after legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno got his record-setting 409th win, the view of his storied, 46-year career suddenly is undergoing a stark revision — tarnished by a child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State involving a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno initially announced his decision to retire at the end of the year, but that was not soon enough for the school’s board of trustees, who announced late yesterday that college football’s winningest coach was fired, along with Penn State President Graham Spanier.
The following morning brought news of nightime riots, as thousands of Penn State students took to the streets to protest the firing. “Joe Paterno broke no law,” said one rioter. (Curiously, the students decided to smash street lamps and turn over a television news van in order to make the righteous case that no laws were broken.)
When groups collaborate there is often a tendency for some members to immediately throw up metaphorical stop signs and barriers, even if unconsciously. “That idea was tried before and didn’t work,” is a classic sucking-the-air-out-of-the-room moment most of us have encountered.
Enter Michael Jastroch, one of the comedy improv trainers from Austin’s Coldtowne Theater, who teaches work teams to play off of new ideas rather than stomping on them like a cockroach. The principle is taught by letting participants pair off for some low-stress improvisation. “I always tell people, don’t try to be funny,” he says. “The important thing is to build on the flow of ideas, and good stuff just naturally pops up.”
He forces the improv pairs to use a structure called “Yes, and…” Each person takes turns in the improvisation, and no matter what the one says, the other has to reply by saying, “Yes, and…”
My work team took a stab at it during a department retreat led by Jastroch. The first pair of volunteers took the stage and began:
1: I have a neighbor who smokes cigars in her back yard. 2: Yes, and I think you should consider smoking cigars, too. 1: Yes, and perhaps you should try some new things once in a while.