Reflecting today on the recent passing of founder and former Southwest Airlines CEO, Herb Kelleher. Let me begin by saying that I have spent a good part of my adult life in broadcasting. Being a “radio guy,” I’m often asked to act as emcee at many events. I’ve been master of ceremonies for everything from beauty pageants to pancake suppers, chamber of commerce banquets to acting as ring announcer for professional wrestling matches! Hundreds of events, which included many Christmas parties.
Somewhere in the early ‘80’s, I was asked to emcee the Southwest Airlines Christmas party. First off, let me say that I found Herb Kelleher to be a very nice man; he was extremely funny and loved to pull a gag. Toward the end of the evening, Herb and I were on stage about to give away a large-screen television (a big deal in 1983) and I asked him to draw the winning name. A drum roll started, and with several hundred employees looking on in hopes that the CEO and founder of the company they worked for would draw their name, Herb reaches into the big fish bowl…and pulls out his own name!
For a split second, there was silence, and then, the entire room erupted in laughter, applause, and cheers as they began to chant his name. I’ll never forget that moment, the multi-millionaire founder of this airline drew his own name to win a huge TV and those people who worked as mechanics, flight attendants, baggage handlers, pilots and in ticketing were genuinely happy for him. This man was adored by his employees; he treated them all with respect and kindness. He rewarded them for their loyalty and dedication.
Fast forward to December 2018 and the Phoenix Construction Christmas party in downtown Fort Worth. I’m emceeing the event that is hosted by the founder of the company, Kaleb Brewer. Much like the party of 1983, the excitement and love of employees displayed for a man who understands the power of treating people like he wants to be treated.
“I know full well that our people are the backbone of what makes Phoenix Construction stand alone in customer service and customer satisfaction,” Brewer said. “As a company, we are certainly Christ-centered, who can best be described as a Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown with a beautiful, peaceful aura that shines light on all we come in contact with.”
That night, Brewer was a rock star to his employees, much like Kelleher to his. I saw him lead with love and respect for each and every employee. I saw him lead by example. It’s one thing to talk the talk with your employees, it’s quite another to walk the walk. In both instances, the celebration of Christmas was also a celebration of love between employees and management, ownership and all who make it work on a daily basis. Just as I will never forget the expressions of appreciation for Herb Kelleher, I won’t forget the outpouring of love and devotion for Kaleb Brewer. As Kelleher receives his heavenly wings, the Phoenix is soaring to new heights.
(By the way, all those years ago, we did take Herb’s name out and draw again.)
Be well and lead by example.
Dave Cowley is the Senior VP of Investor/Public Relations at Phoenix Construction.