The Power of Authentic Purpose

Only when purpose is really clarified, can attention can be truly focused.

Take Southwest Airlines as an illustration. For an airline that began with only three destinations in one state, Southwest has grown to be a leader in its field.  But right from the beginning, they had identified their true purpose – an idea which transcended the concept of planes and passengers. That purpose was – “we democratise the skies”. All Southwest employees know that what they really do is to help people fly to wherever they need to fly, to meet whoever they need to meet. 

That purpose, deeply embedded within all staff, translates into actions that amaze and astonish people who fly with them. Passenger Peggy Uhle is one such example. Peggy was on a Southwest flight ready for take-off from Chicago, Illinois, to Columbus, Ohio, when the plane turned back to the gate unexpectedly. The flight attendant approached Uhle and asked her to get off the plane. “I figured I was on the wrong plane,” Uhle said. “The gate agent told me to check in at the desk and when I did, she told me to call my husband.” 

Uhle learned from her husband that her son, who lives in Denver, Colorado, was in a coma after suffering a head injury. Before Uhle had even disembarked her scheduled flight or spoken to customer service, Southwest had handled her situation. “The gate attendant already knew the situation and had booked me on a direct flight to Denver that was leaving in the next two hours,” Uhle told Boarding Area. The airline did not charge Uhle any additional fees or service charges for the flight.

“They offered a private waiting area, rerouted my luggage, allowed me to board first, and packed a lunch for when I got off the plane in Denver,” Uhle said. “My luggage was delivered to where I was staying, and I even received a call from Southwest asking how my son was doing.”

Uhle is extremely happy with the service she received from Southwest. “The care that I was shown is second to none,” Uhle said. “We have always liked Southwest Airlines and now we can't say enough good things about them."

Of course, no one at Southwest was surprised by what their own staff did. It was simply their purpose, being brought to life in the daily events of the people they help.

Purpose is not a by-line or a marketing motto. It is the fundamental capture and sincere articulation of the soul of the business, but when it is found, it transforms everything.