Richard Branson/Herb Kelleher - Leader Extraordinaire

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Case Details:

Case Code : LDEN021
Case Length : 08 Pages
Period : 1973-2002
Pub Date : 2002
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Virgin Group, Southwest Airlines
Industry : Aviation
Countries : USA

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"I never went into business solely to make money, I always said that I wanted to be the best, rather than the biggest. And at the end of the day, it all comes down to people. Nothing else even comes close."

- Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin Group.

"I have had the great fortune of earning a living doing something I love, I welcome the chance to give something back, especially to future entrepreneurs."

- Herb Kelleher, Chairman, Southwest Airlines, USA.

Of Insanely Sane & Maverick Leaders

Picture the owner of a $ 5 billion business empire consisting of over 200 companies around the world. Now think of a man who holds the record for being the fastest to cross the Atlantic ocean by boat, the first to cross the Pacific, the first to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon; Think of a man who dressed himself up like a bride to launch a new company. A difficult juxtaposition indeed.

That is, till one mentions the name of Britain's (and one of the world's) most successful entrepreneur, Richard Branson (Branson), and CEO of the Virgin group of companies. Knighted for his valuable services to entrepreneurship, Sir Branson was well known for making successful businesses out of many 'crazy ideas.' 

Many people believed that Branson could make 'everything and anything' into a profitable business and that too in the most unorthodox ways. Though Branson claimed not to be in business for the money, the fact that almost all Virgin companies were profitable helped a lot. Perhaps nobody has ever had so much fun in doing business and creating empires worth billions than Branson did.

Well, almost nobody. The CEO of the fourth largest airlines in the US, was well known for his unconventional ways of conducting business. Dressing up as Elvis Presley for a Halloween party and driving a Harley Davidson motorcycle to a company picnic were just some of the things that differentiated him from the run-of-the-mill CEOs.

Though many Southwest Airlines observers could be unaware of these two incidents, almost all of them would have heard of Herbert D Kelleher's (Herb) legendary arm-wrestling contest with one of his rival CEOs to settle a business dispute. Herb is often referred to as one of the most appreciated entrepreneurs from the US...

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