Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Joseph C. Rost, PhD, Director; William P. Foster, EdD; Larry Williamson, PhD


case study, competition, goals, Herb Kelleher, Leadership studies, qualitative, Southwest Airlines, transformational leadership, values


The notion of transformational leadership as developed by James MacGregor Burns has contributed significantly to a new consensus in the literature regarding the nature of leadership. Burns introduced the concept of transformational leadership, suggesting that leaders are individuals who transform their institutions by embracing competition and conflict, meeting the mutual goals of both leader and followers, successfully articulating their values to followers and drawing them into a common purpose and a shared vision, using power resources and politics to satisfy their followers’ needs and wants, and raising the moral aspirations of both leaders and led. While the contemporary literature on leadership has done much to further our understanding about the nature of transformational leadership, very few works provide us with case study examples of transformational leaders. Missing is an understanding of what leaders actually do in the process of leading followers and transforming organizations. The present study sought to provide a descriptive analysis of how one leader in charge of a major American corporation has shaped and transformed his institution. Through open-ended interviews and direct observation, this study examined Herbert D. Kelleher, the Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Airlines, a Dallas, Texas-based corporation that has a 15- year history, approximately 5,000 employees, and one billion dollars in assets. Key informant interviews were held with Kelleher and Southwest Airlines employees from different levels and a variety of positions within the corporation to determine the degree to which Kelleher personifies transformational leadership. This case study presents Herb Kelleher as an individual who has affected significant institutional change at Southwest Airlines by satisfying the wants and needs of his followers and by raising them to higher levels of motivation and morality. It was determined that Kelleher's ability to successfully change his organization and meet the needs of his people is because he clearly demonstrates the qualities of transformational leadership.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access