Jim Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, came to Van Munching Hall last week and chatted with our teamwork and integration class. Jim is an executive in residence at the Smith School of Business, so he will be spending some time on-campus.
It was a great opportunity to learn from a leader in industry. Jim spoke at length about his background as a lawyer and his foray into Southwest. It was particularly inspiring to me, a career switcher, to hear that it’s possible to change your professional trajectory and still ascend to the highest levels of management.
Jim also spoke about the issues facing him during his tenure at Southwest (2001 – 2003), and some of the quick decisions he had to make while at the helm. Specifically, Jim spoke about 9/11. Among other perspectives, he offered some insight into the changing nature of the airline industry during that time, the issues facing Southwest, and the decision making process he and his management team went through to arrive at the company’s strategic direction during those tough business and social times. At the end, Jim’s takeaway was to do what’s right for your people. He always focused on what was right for his employees and the customers.
That perspective drives the spirit of Southwest and it was great to hear specific examples of how that philosophy manifests itself in SWA’s day-to-day business.
Until next time…