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Colleen Barrett, Servant Leader
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Colleen Barrett, Servant Leader and Superstar

By Laurie Wegman

(Originally appeared in the October 12th, 2012 edition of the Dallas Business Journal,Admin Awards special section.)

Colleen Barrett has that “it” factor.

She’s been praised for her management style, leadership and decision-making. In her five-decade career she’s been an administrative professional, corporate executive, speaker and mentor. She’s the co-author of the popular book, Lead with Luv: A Different Way to Create Real Success, and she’s won numerous awards from esteemed publications such as Forbes, Fortune and BusinessWeek. But above all, Barrett is a humanitarian, a woman on a mission to ensure that customer service – as in true blue dedication to meeting the needs and expectations of others – remains a priority in the business world.

Ascending the Ranks

Barrett went to work in San Antonio as Herb Kelleher’s legal secretary in 1967. She joined Southwest Airlines in 1978 as its corporate secretary and subsequently served as its vice president – administration and executive vice president – customers. She was selected as president and COO of the airline in 2001, and has served as president emeritus since 2008. What may be lesser known about Barrett is the fact that, regardless of how many executive titles she has had next to her name, she still has a great affinity for one particular job designation: secretary.

Colleen Barrett, Servant Leader and Superstar

Barrett launched her career from the very notion of a stepping-stone, learning from Kelleher, who she credits as the person who gave her the opportunity to succeed. She says that if you “have a boss who will let you stretch” then you’ve got opportunity to learn. Barrett also says that administrative professionals, such a receptionists, have a tremendous advantage. “Talk about a place to learn how a company is run,” she added.

Barrett said she never began her work at Southwest with any sort of set path, so she didn’t feel the need to follow any preconceived notions of the way her career should shake out. She took advantage of opportunities, worked hard, and remained true to her belief in providing top-notch customer service. Even today, Barrett’s customer-centric style is the backbone of Southwest, and she remains one of our most decorated business professionals. She’s honest, funny, loving, and a servant leader. Simply put, Colleen Barrett, perhaps the world’s most well known advocate for administrative pros, is a superstar of the highest degree.