Leadership is Common Sense or Is It?

Jann FreedLeading Leave a Comment

This post is a follow up to the previous post about Herb Kelleher.  There is so much to learn from his leadership practices that I want to give him some more thought and space.  He created a culture where people want to work by changing the industry norms.  While his practices were common sense, they are not very common.


It is worth the time and space to expand on why Herb Kelleher was so beloved.  I included this article in last week’s post, 20 Reasons Why Herb Kelleher Was One Of The Most Beloved Leaders Of Our Time.

The authors listed 20 common sense practices that made Kelleher a beloved leader.  But why is common sense not so common?  I am going to focus on a few of my favorites and add my perspective

1. Be interested.  There is an important difference between “being interesting” and “being interested.”  When you are interesting, the focus is internally on you.  When you are interested, the focus is externally on someone else.  The best way to show interest is to ask questions.

2. Be approachable.

3. Look beyond title and status.

4. Hire for attitude and train for skill.

5. Put employees first and customers second.  I like to say employee satisfaction is a pre-requisite for customer satisfaction.  Employees need to come first.

6. Jettison tribalism and office politics.

7. Be yourself and allow others to be themselves.

8. Be trustworthy. Trust is a reciprocal relationship.  When you trust others, they tend to trust you and then you trust them even more.  Trust is closely linked to integrity.  People trust people of high integrity.

9. Leave your ego at the door.  Leaders don’t let ego win.  Our ego wants to protect us. Know when the ego is taking over in negative ways such as defensiveness, micromanagement, envy,  … control.  As Elsa sang in the movie “Frozen,”  “Let it go.  Let it go.”

10.Be irreverent.

11.Be tough not mean.  I like to say:  Honesty with kindness.  It is possible to be strong and not mean.  Think before saying anything.  What is the best way to deliver the message in a way that will be heard and understood?

12.Don’t take yourself too seriously.

13.Spend time on what y0u value.  We should spend time and money on what we value.  How are you spending your time and money?  This communicates to others what you value.

14.Cultivate a warrior spirit.

15.Forget strategic planning.

16.Manage the company in the good times to protect it in the bad times.

17.Be decisive and move with speed and agility.

18.Culture is the boss.  Peter Drucker said it best:  “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Culture is king for influencing how people behave and what they believe.

19.Define the business as a cause.

20.Herb’s Golden Rule:  It’s okay to break the rules.

If someone made a list of your 20 best leadership behaviors or even a list of 10, what would they be?

What do you do as a leader that will live on beyond your tenure? 

Herb Kelleher left a admirable leadership legacy that will live on for a long time because of how his practices were embedded into the culture.