• Tim Herrera

Good Communication Leads to Success. It worked for Herb Kelleher.


When I worked as a TV reporter in Dallas/Fort Worth in the mid to late 1980s, I had the good fortune of meeting Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and former CEO of the very successful Southwest Airlines. The energetic and plain-talking executive – who recently passed away - helped the no-frills Southwest Airlines make a name for itself.


During one press conference (the topic escapes me), he gave some timeless advice for young people just starting out in business. Kelleher said he believed in order for anyone to succeed in any kind of business it’s vital to have good interpersonal communications skills. He said he looked for strong communicators when hiring employees.


Many years later, Kelleher reinforced those sentiments during an interview with Strategy and Business in the summer of 2004 when he said: “It has to be a continuous stream of one-on-one communication, not like you sit down and say, ‘Boy, communication is pretty important. Let’s really communicate for the next six months and then move on to what’s really significant.’ It has to be part of your fabric; it has to be something that you do really as a product of your soul.”


In a story about Kelleher’s death, the Associated Press noted the Southwest co-founder’s communication skills: “Kelleher was so outgoing that it would take him ages to walk through an airport — he seemed to stop every few feet to chat with employees and passengers.”


Interpersonal communication skills influence how effective a person is in all of life’s roles: spouse, friend, co-worker, or manager. We must utilize these skills whether engaging in a face-to-face conversation or some form of computer mediated communication.


Whether a job prospect is interviewing for a high level position with Southwest Airlines or for a night manager post at Burger King, it is important for that person to realize in order to stand out among the other candidates that possessing and displaying solid communication skills will provide an advantage.


The lack of communication skills, or insufficient communication between people, is one of the greatest contributors to many of the problems we face at home, in school or at the workplace. Lacking the proper communication skills will leave an employee lacking in other areas of life. Only by enhancing our ability to speak, listen, communicate and exchange ideas can we expect to improve all aspects of our lives.


Herb Kelleher certainly figured it out.

(Tim Herrera is the author of Public Speaking: Simple Steps to Improve Your Skills and several other books on communications.)

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