Howard Putnam

Former CEO of Southwest Airlines

Workplace cultures that place “people” as their top priority have the greatest long-term impact and success, says Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. Having led the airline through many turbulent times, Putnam piloted the company to success by creating a team of employees whose ideas and input were valued, listened to, and often acted on. During his tenure, Southwest tripled in size and tripled in profitability and remains today a corporate model emulated all over the world.

After working with Southwest, Putnam was later recruited to be the CEO of the then-failing Braniff International, where he became the first CEO to successfully restructure a major airline and take it through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was at Braniff that he learned crisis management while rallying 10,000 employees to new heights as they fought to save their company. Prior to working with Southwest and Braniff, Putnam had spent over twenty years with United Airlines, his final position as vice president of group marketing.

Putnam is the author of The Winds of Turbulence, and holds an MBA in marketing from the University of Chicago, as well as having attended Harvard’s Advanced Management Program.

Successful Strategies Through Turbulent Times

Leaders must have a clear and concise vision if they want their organizations to survive and thrive through turbulence. A clear understanding of what business you are really in is critical. Cultures can then be developed to support the vision and business. Bottom line improvement comes through your people. Howard shares his principles of leadership and outlines key strategies to navigate turbulence successfully.

Creating a Culture and Process for Ideas to Emerge

Innovation occurs in organizations that embrace a culture for risk taking and idea implementation. Howard Putnam proved this philosophy works when he was CEO of Southwest Airlines. He positioned and organized Southwest for growth and profitability utilizing a very flat management structure with decision-making and idea development imbedded in everyone’s job scope and responsibility. Individuals and teams were rewarded for risk taking and for designing out of the box processes and improvements in productivity, customer service, cost containment, safety and profitability. Brands develop when people thrive in the vision and experience.

Transforming Organizations Successfully & Profitably

Many organizations are out of alignment in the current turbulent environment. Their design is outdated with bureaucracy and a hierarchy that is expensive and inefficient. Howard Putnam will show you how to transform your business into a “flow state” organization that is focused, nimble, flexible, cost effective and able to utilize the “stages of turbulence” which he will identify for you to take advantage of being in a change state.

Hiring Attitudes & Developing Their Skills

Successful organizations that are in business for the long term, place their people first if they want sustained bottom line improvement. Howard Putnam led the visioning process at Southwest Airlines in which a key element was the culture, putting their people first and matching attitudes with the culture. Happy employees and superior customer service resulted from this concept. He will share behind the scenes looks on how this was accomplished with great stories, humor and concrete ideas and suggestions.

The Ultimate Challenge in Ethics; Are You Really the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are?

Organizations cannot ignore the need for proactive efforts to ingrain honesty, integrity and trust at every level. Today’s environment requires ethical leaders, if they want their businesses to survive and grow. Howard Putnam learned the values of trust and honesty as he grew up on an Iowa farm. He has embodied those principles in his successful business career. He took on the challenge of saving Braniff International only to find the “books had been cooked” prior to his arrival. He will share this character building experience of taking a major airline through Chapter 11 successfully and offer a flight plan for you to implement in your organization.