Last week, the Dallas Regional Chamber hosted its annual meeting–the first of such in-person meeting in two years–at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center headlined by a fireside chat between the newly appointed CEO of Southwest Airlines Bob Jordan and former CEO and Chairwoman of The Container Store, Melissa Reiff.
Jordan takes over for former CEO Gary Kelly who had led Southwest since 2004. Come February 1, Jordan will ditch his title of executive vice president of corporate affairs with Southwest and assume the CEO role.
Heading into his tenure, Jordan shared some company forecasts and outlined his goals for 2022 and beyond.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
1. Communication in leadership is essential–especially during the climb out of the pandemic’s peak.
JORDAN: “My goals for the transition are really basic: I need to get out and people need to see me. I need to get out and communicate with our 54,000 employees. The joy of my work is getting out into the stations or in the classes and communicating with our wonderful employees … [Leaders] need to communicate all the time. And I need to make sure [our employees] know who I am, they need to know my commitment. I will begin to set a tone for where we were headed and what’s important to Southwest.
“What I found is–above all–what our employees want to hear is that I understand that it has been a difficult environment [lately]. They want to hear me tell them ‘thank you,’ because it has been a difficult environment, and they want me to listen … Our people are our greatest asset … And they want to understand that I’m a real person. I’m not a person in a video somewhere. I’m a real person and I care about them.”
2. Southwest is hiring tens of thousands of new employees.
JORDAN: “We are hiring tens of thousands new employees … We’re still emerging from the pandemic so it’s really basic stuff–without corporate staffing, we cannot operate the airline the way we would like to.”
3. Jordan is focused on getting Southwest back in the green.
JORDAN: “We need to get back to consistent profitability. At the end of the day, we’re a public company, and we need to get back to profitability to serve our shareholders and grow the airline … Our priorities for 2022 are really basic: it’s get back to normal, get staffed, and get stable.”
4. Jordan is upping the flights and the fleets.
JORDAN: “We’re a large and complex company. We need to work on modernizing our operations, we’re going to have 5,000 flights a day. Right now, depending on the day we have around 3,000 to 3,500. And we’re going to continue to grow to 1,000 aircraft.”
5. Jordan’s passions aren’t too complex.
In a series of quick-hitting questions for Reiff, Jordan draws back the curtain into his personal life.
Favorite action movie: Die Hard, he also notes that it is without a doubt a Christmas movie.
Favorite app: ESPN or Google Maps
One thing you can afford to get rid of: “I’m not a clutter person at all,” he says as Reiff provokes him for an answer. “[But], 10 pounds.”
Favorite car: A Honda S2000, in which he notes, “You can kill yourself in it.”
Favorite sandwich: Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich (only after catching heat for mentioning fried bologna)
One song you’d listen to for the rest of your life: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey
Favorite board game: Risk
What you do for fun: Support the Texas A&M Aggies
Biggest fear: Crafting