Delta jets at terminal
Acton Institute Powerblog

Why businesses should use the servant leadership model

I recently flew from Grand Rapids to Los Angeles on Delta. With the exception of some extra frisky TSA agents here in Michigan, the experience was largely positive. My flights were on time, the crew was helpful, and the planes were clean and well equipped. Even for those of us sitting in the back, the seating was comfortable. Bonus—I had a whole row to myself on the trip home!

All of this got me thinking about a news article that blipped across my radar several weeks ago. On the heels of a record year, Delta announced it was paying out $1.6 billion in profit-sharing bonuses. That bonus is reported to be the equivalent of two months pay. Just a week or so later, Southwest Airlines announced that it too would be giving its employees bonuses, to the tune of about six weeks of extra pay. Even though they didn’t have a spectacular year like Delta, Southwest still turned a profit and still paid it out to their staff.

So what is it about these two companies that drove them to share their profits? Their culture surely has something to do with it. I suspect their leadership philosophy also plays a role in how they think about profit and reinvestment in their businesses.

Thankfully, we have some insight into this kind of thinking from a company right here in West Michigan. In the video interview below, we talked to Dan Gordon, Board Chairman of Gordon Food Service, about leadership, profits, and showing thanks to employees.