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Howard Putnam          

Former CEO of Southwest Airlines

Howard Putnam's ultimate objective is "bottom-line improvement." He believes that business cultures that place emphasis on people as the utmost priority in determining their future find long-term impact and success.

Putnam is the former CEO of the highly successful Southwest Airlines, the foundation and culture of which placed people first. When he was recruited to be the CEO of failing Braniff International, he was the first CEO to successfully restructure a major airline into, through, and out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. His previous experience includes spending over 20 years with United Airlines, with his final position being Group Vice President of Marketing.

Putnam has been an entrepreneur and has served as a director of several startup technology companies. He is an author, speaker, and advisor on business issues, change, leadership, and ethics. HarperCollins published his first book, The Winds of Turbulence. Harvard University wrote a case study on his Braniff experiences, "The Ethics of Bankruptcy."

Putnam has an MBA in marketing from the University of Chicago and attended Harvard's Advanced Management Program.

Speech Topics

Leadership - Successful Strategies through Turbulent Times

Leaders must have a clear and concise vision if they want their organizations to survive and thrive through turbulence. A clear understanding of what business you are really in is critical. Cultures can then be developed to support the vision and business. Bottom line improvement comes through your people. Howard shares his principles of leadership and outlines key strategies to navigate turbulence successfully.

Innovation - Creating a Culture and Process for Ideas to Emerge

Innovation occurs in organizations that embrace a culture for risk taking and idea implementation. Howard Putnam proved this philosophy works when he was CEO of Southwest Airlines. He positioned and organized Southwest for growth and profitability utilizing a very flat management structure with decision-making and idea development imbedded in everyone's job scope and responsibility. Individuals and teams were rewarded for risk taking and for designing out of the box processes and improvements in productivity, customer service, cost containment, safety and profitability. Brands develop when people thrive in the vision and experience.

Change - Transforming Organizations Successfully and Profitably

Many organizations are out of alignment in the current turbulent environment. Their design is outdated with bureaucracy and a hierarchy that is expensive and inefficient. Howard Putnam will show you how to transform your business into a "flow state" organization that is focused, nimble, flexible, cost effective and able to utilize the "stages of turbulence" which he will identify for you to take advantage of being in a change state.

People and Culture - Hiring Attitudes and Developing Their Skills

Successful organizations that are in business for the long term, place their people first if they want sustained bottom line growth. Howard Putnam led the visioning process at Southwest Airlines, in which a key element was the culture, putting their people first and matching attitudes with the culture. Happy employees and superior customer service resulted from this concept. He will share behind the scenes looks on how this was accomplished with great stories, humor and concrete ideas and suggestions.

Ethics - The Ultimate Challenge in Ethics; Are You Really the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are?

Organizations cannot ignore the need for proactive efforts to ingrain honesty, integrity and trust at every level. Today's environment requires ethical leaders, if they want their businesses to survive and grow. Howard Putnam learned the values of trust and honesty as he grew up on an Iowa farm. He has embodied those principles in his successful business career. He took on the challenge of saving Braniff International only to find the "books had been cooked" prior to his arrival. He will share this character building experience of taking a major airline through Chapter 11 successfully and offer a flight plan for you to implement in your organization


Former Southwest Airlines CEO Howard Putnam....

Howard Putnam is considered a trailblazer of change leadership and transformation. Shortly after being recruited as CEO of Southwest Airlines in 1978, he led the visioning process and developed the "fun" culture and excellent customer service for which the airline is still known today. Because of his leadership, Southwest has been profitable every year for the past 37 years, a record unsurpassed by any airline. In 1981, Putnam was recruited by the board of Braniff International to become the first airline CEO to successfully take a major carrier into, through and out of Chapter 11. He has been an entrepreneur and has served as director of several startup technology companies.

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