Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Chris LoCurto


March 14, 2012

Leadership Lessons From A Southwest Boarding Line

March 14, 2012 | By | 40 Comments">40 Comments

Leadership can be found in the most unassuming places. This morning, it was on my way to Orlando, Florida with our Momentum leadership team. That’s when I experienced what I call  “a post moment.”  Yes, it’s that small space in time when something happens that will inevitably end up on

In fact, I can’t tell you how many times someone I’m traveling with sees something and says, “I bet that ends up on your blog.” Most of the time, it doesn’t. Usually, it’s because I don’t share silly stuff for silly’s sake. I want there to be some sort of goofy human thing, which I can wrap into a leadership lesson—like today.

I headed to line up for our Southwest flight. Being someone who hates when people cut, I always ask first the numbers of the folks already in line. I had A16, so I was looking for A15 or A17. When I asked this lady and her early-twenties son what numbers they were, he said 16. As I looked down, it was C16. Knowing how much this sucks for them, I very nicely and softly told them that they were C’s. The following is the conversation:

CLo: Oh, those are C’s.

Mom: I know!

CLo: Well, they actually will be loading these in different groupings.

Mom: Oh, I know!

CLo:  Oh, OK. It’s just that these A folks are going to walk right through you.

Still just trying to be as nice as possible, but quickly realizing this lady didn’t care … or is too embarrassed to just admit the mistake.

Mom:  It’s OK. They can.

Here is where I am certain she didn’t care.

CLo:  Woooow … look at yoooooou. Forget them. We don’t like civility.

That’s my passive aggressive way of pointing out that now she was just being rude. Because, seriously, that’s just rude! I have no problem with you realizing you’ve made a mistake and that’s all it is. But pushing to stay standing in a spot that two groups of people are going to have to walk through you to board their plane? C’mon.

So I turned and walked on to the plane. As I did, I heard the son say, “I’m just gonna stand over here.” To which she said, “OK, OK.”

Now, I don’t know if she moved, but I know what I thought. Pooooooooooooost moooomeeeeent! You see, there are a TON of lessons to be learned from this situation.

  • Being rude is not a way of life.
  • Answering quickly to not look silly … kinda makes you look silly.
  • It’s OK to be wrong.
  • It’s OK to make mistakes.
  • It’s OK to admit that you are wrong and made a mistake.
  • It’s OK to not wear a plaid button down shirt with capri jeans and low heels. Wait, what?! Sorry.
  • It’s OK to realize that when someone is trying to help you not look silly, you should take them up on their offer.
  • Being teachable may be one of the most important things for your personal growth.
  • As a leader or a parent, you are ALWAYS influencing your children. There’s never a time when they are around you that you’re not.
  • As a parent, and most times as a leader, you’re not raising children. You’re raising adults. As you are, so will they be. The anointing drops from the beard.

Was I upset at the lady? Not at all. Have I done “ridiculous” like that? Absolutely! Only about 10,000 times. But the goal needs to be learn and change. I can avoid those moments if I understand that I HAVE those moments.

Question: What is your take on this situation? 

  • custom desk name plates

    I am confused about theLeadership come naturally in a human from his birth time.So its very hard to grow the leadership habits in a human.Is it right or wrong?

  • Crystal

    Leadership come naturally in a human from his birth time.So its very hard to grow the leadership habits in a human.Is it right or wrong?

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Rude seems to be prominent in airports these days. Since I have flown every week since the beginning of the year – I have witnessed some pretty rude behavior – may have to blog about that!

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    I am reminded of a scene from Lonesome Dove (one of my favorite movies!) where Captain Call comes to the defense of one of his men who was being beaten – and after he makes a believer out of the offender says “I just can’t tolerate rude behavior….”!

  • TroyD

    Love the blog and podcast Chris. On this one however, I am reading a story of an older women who has probably been the target of many scams, in a hectic airport environment. Maybe she was simply overwhelmed with your approaching her. I fly every couple years if I am lucky and when I get in those situations my guard goes up and I don’t trust anyone, my guard doesn’t allow me to even hear you. So perhaps because you fly every week your viewpoint is a little skewed. Nobody is at fault on either side, each person has a different lens they see thought. I just wanted to interject a little grace into the situation, something I know you can appreciate. Keep up the great content, love it!

    • Chris LoCurto

      Thanks Troy for the comment! I totally agree with you. That’s why I talked about how many times I’ve made this same mistake. Something was going on with her that she felt compeled to respond that way. It really doesn’t matter what it was, I just have to respect that. But, I’m also in the business of growing others. Thus the post. I have to look at this situation and grow MYSELF or I’m no better.

      Thanks again Troy!!

  • Troy

    Love the Blog and Podcast Chris! On this one however, I am curious as an older women who is probably targeted by countless scams in a busy airport, maybe she was just overwhelmed with your interaction and couldn’t clear that enough to understand your point. I know when I am approached by anyone in that setting the guard goes up and I won’t be convinced of anything, right or wrong. As someone who flies every week, your viewpoint could be a little skewed. I fly once every couple years and unfortunately trust nobody in those settings. Just putting a little grace behind my thoughts, I know you can appreciate that. Keep up the great content, love it!

  • Julia Graylion

    And this is where we remember that every interaction with every person is building our personal brand.


    • Chris LoCurto

      Isn’t that the truth! I have to think about that now with EVERY person I meet. If I’m tired from traveling like MAD, and I’m rude to someone who knows of me at just the right time, I’ll get a post on my blog about how much of a jerk that Chris LoCurto is.

      • Julia Graylion

        And that’s a brilliant reminder for me today when the sun is shining and my foot gets heavier and heavier on the accelerator…. :)

  • ginasmom

    Makes me wonder what was really going on in her head, of if she is just plain rude and mean.
    …These A folks are going to walk right through you…If i was in the line and you said that to me, i would have been so embarrassed, and would have literally faded into the walls, never to be seen again.

    It’s a great lesson that it doesn’t cost much to be civil, but goes a long way.

    About the plaid shirt, you are sure about the capri jeans.?

    • Chris LoCurto

      HAHAHA….it’s all a matter of preference. :-)

      • ginasmom

        Okay, i can live with that, since i kind of like them:(:)

  • KateStalter

    Chris, I found this insightful because I often (incorrectly) assume the person is *willfully* just being a jerk to assert some kind of dominance. A few years ago I was annoyed because two guys were walking in the wrong direction on an indoor track in a gym. It was a pain to maneuver around them — and my blood was boiling every time I had to, really harshing my workout :)

    I finally said something, and they just didn’t understand that they were supposed to go with the flow of traffic — in fact, they were wondering why everybody else was going in the other direction. I had assumed they were just purposely being jerks. Totally wrong – they were very apologetic when they realized.

    Thank you for this great perspective, Chris!

    • Chris LoCurto

      It’s crazy how we see someone doing something and automatically assume they know as we do. I think God uses those moments to soften us. At least I hopt that’s what it is. :-)

  • Apostle Ricardo Butler

    Oh, by the way … SHARING!

    • Chris LoCurto

      Thanks Ricardo!!

  • Apostle Ricardo Butler

    Now that is interesting! I was going to ask was this at your leaving airport or coming to OIA (Orlando airport)? But you said boarding. So with that said, let me just speak up for all of us folks out here in Orlando, FL (my birth and home town) WELCOME TO THE OZONE! lol! And if you have problems with any rude folks out here, let me know. I will come straighten them out by “laying hands on them.”(Pun intended!)

    Anyway, I love that fact that you stated so simply, “Learn and Change!” Because most people don’t understand that’s the whole purpose of life. That’s the total sum of why God created us. To turn us from clays of dirt to pots of honor so we could be of use.

    I’m kind of sad you guys are here in Orlando. I wanted to go to the EntreLeadership event soooooooooooooooooo bad! But with my money (budget) I had two choices: My wife said, “Buy the EntreLeadership book or go to the event?” I said, “Buy the book. It will stick with me longer and I can keep “going to the event” over and over again!

    God bless you guys while you are out here. I hope (I actually KNOW) you will have a good turn out!

    Love you!

  • cabinart

    1. That sort of thing is one of the many reasons flying is no fun.
    2. I am wondering if you really said that last thing!
    3. I commend you in your attempts to assist this dense/rude woman. (I believe she was too rushed for a quiet time that day!)
    4. Great list of lessons to be learned from mistakes (and may we all be taught by someone as kind as you were with her.)

    • Chris LoCurto

      Haha…I did say the last one, but it was still in a nice passive aggressive way. :-) It came off funny.

  • Holly Hall

    I’m learning this lesson right now. It will be impossible for me to be “right” about everything or know every answer to every question. Since I’m working with clients in many different industries, I’m often afraid of being wrong or not knowledgeable enough. I was having a discussion with a new prospect yesterday who asked me a couple of questions I didn’t know the answer to. It made me uncomfortable at first because I wish I knew everything! :) But then I realized that he didn’t expect me to know the answer to everything, and it’s okay to be wrong or unsure about something. It’s how I follow up, find the answer, and approach everything with a teachable attitude that matters. I’ve learned to respond with, “I’m sorry, I’ve never heard of that. I’d love to hear about your experience,” instead of allow my insecurity to make me defensive. Thanks for this great reminder, Chris!

    • Chris LoCurto

      You are so cool!!!

    • Chris LoCurto

      You are so cool!!!

  • Lily Kreitinger

    This reminded me of the video “Get Service” where the young man receives a pair of glasses that help him see the reality of the people around him (addiction, unemployment, illness…). As much as I would’ve gotten really upset with this RUDE woman, I’m trying lately to pray for people like her because they may be going through tough times (or they’re just jerks and need prayers too). It’s so true that as Christians, parents, leaders, we model behavior in others and the world is watching! Thanks for reminding me to be more considerate! (Not that I ever get in line with the As when I’m section C) : ) Oh, and it feels like Spring in Minnesota, so no plaid shirts!

    • Chris LoCurto

      Yeah, I used to be mad at people like that in the past. Now I try and learn from it. Again, I’ve had too many of those days myself.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Yeah, I used to be mad at people like that in the past. Now I try and learn from it. Again, I’ve had too many of those days myself.

  • Matt Steen

    I’ve been trying to convince mom for years that the plaid shirt and capris thing just doesn’t work…

    • Chris LoCurto


  • steelegoing

    I think these moments are God’s way of teaching us humility. If you take a step back from the situation, you will generally see that you are upset because of your own level of perceived importance. I’m still learning how to deal with these frustrating moments, but it always helps to ask myself, “What makes me the authority to determine that this person’s actions are incorrect?” (Daniel Lapin discusses this in his book Thou Shall Prosper). This isn’t making excuses for others, it is recognizing that I have faults as well, and I am sure that there are people who accept them and continue on without feeling the need to call me out.

    I find the more I lead by example the less these types of things get to me. Walk the talk I guess.

    • Chris LoCurto

      So true. That’s why I was more silly with her. Like I pointed out, I have made the same mistake sooooooo many times. Like Chadrick said, she probably not happy with herself, which is sad. Or, maybe she’s just having a bad day.

  • Daniel

    Judging from the headline of the article, I thought that maybe the Airline gate agent has done something spectacular to help you out. Still a good lesson nonetheless.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Hahaha…sorry for that. :-)

  • Chadrick Black

    Why will this person always have a hard time reaching her potential or even completing simple goals? Because her bad attitude will always be “standing in her way”. HA!
    This experience is a good example of what I wrote and shared with your readers a while back: “We often talk to and treat others the way we talk to and treat ourselves.” Just imagine what she see when she looks in the mirror…

    • Chris LoCurto

      You’re so right brother. I imagine she’s not very happy with herself. It is a great example for us to snap out of any funk that we are in.

  • Loren Pinilis

    I think you nailed it when you said that we need to be OK with making mistakes. That was clearly just what was happening here. I can judge her – but then I think back to the thousands of times I’ve dug in my heels and refused to admit mistakes.

    • Chris LoCurto

      That’s so me! I’m still maturing in that process. It’s ok to be wrong. Life doesn’t end if you’re found out.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      AMEN, Loren! I have also – but it is amazing how good it feels to just admit it when you make a mistake – instead of trying to make excuses and cover it up.

  • skottydog

    There is a great line in the original, 1957 version of the movie “12 Angry Men” that nails this point perfectly:

    The hostile juror says to the calm, polite juror, “What’s with you, anyway? Why do you always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me'”?

    The calm juror replies, “For the same reason you don’t—it’s how I was raised.”

    • Chris LoCurto

      Wow! Isn’t that the truth!

  • Gary Mast

    I can relate to this. We all have our own agenda and everytime that we are made to look stupid in a situation then we can either choose to laugh at ourselves or we can rise up on the inside and say i have had enough and draw a line in the sand through which all the A’s can walk over :) ……Keep Smiling!!