Leadership Lessons From A Southwest Boarding Line

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 ChrisLoCurto.com.

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? 

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40 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons From A Southwest Boarding Line”

  1. 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!!

  2. 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.”

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.)

  10. 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!
    Ricardo

  11. 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!

    1. 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. 🙂

  12. 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.?

    1. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

    1. 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!!

  15. 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….”!

  16. 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!

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