Skip to content
Subscriber Only

At Southwest, the Culture Drives Success

Former Southwest CEO James Parker talks about the aftermath of September 11, a shared mission, and creating great leaders at every level

Chief executives should place a higher priority on creating strong corporate cultures, not to give employees warm, fuzzy feelings, but to spur profitability, says James Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines (LUV). Parker, who was CEO from 2001 to 2004, guided Southwest through the aftermath of September 11, which temporarily grounded airlines and caused a downturn in the travel industry.

Parker, author of the recently published Do The Right Thing: How Dedicated Employees Create Loyal Customers and Large Profits (Wharton School Publishing, 2008), also argues that CEOs spend too much time grooming high-potential executives, but not enough developing frontline managers. Here are edited excerpts from a recent conversation: