Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing

by James F. Parker

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The #1 Principle of Sustainable Business Success Is Simpler Than You Think


Do the Right Thing is about how any company can stay true to its soul. Jim Parker’s deep and abiding belief in the power of people and culture in building a business of lasting worth is evident everywhere; so too is his humility and

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The #1 Principle of Sustainable Business Success Is Simpler Than You Think


Do the Right Thing is about how any company can stay true to its soul. Jim Parker’s deep and abiding belief in the power of people and culture in building a business of lasting worth is evident everywhere; so too is his humility and selflessness as a leader—his stories are not about his own achievements, which are many, but those of the people he led, one of the great success stories of our time.”

—Sean Moriarty, CEO, Ticketmaster


Do the Right Thing offers insightful views into the culture, leadership, and decisions that build great companies the right way. A must read for my management team. THIS BOOK ROCKS.”

—Kent Taylor, Founder and Chairman, Texas Roadhouse Restaurants


“The book is a fun read filled with memorable stories that get at the heart of what it takes to lead in a way that simultaneously satisfies employees, customers, and shareholders. Jim Parker plays the role of eloquent detective and ferrets out the interweaving parts that distributed leadership, culture, values, and teamwork play as the underlying layers of a company’s success. This is a book about heroes at all levels and the environment needed to create those heroes. A must-read for today’s leaders.”

—Professor Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management and Faculty Director of the MIT Leadership Center, Sloan School of Management


“You’ll laugh and cry reading Jim’s book, and probably won’t be able to put it down. It will forever change the way you view the employees in your organization.”

—Beverly K. Carmichael, Member, Board of Directors, Society for Human Resource Management


People matter most.

You know that. But most companies would rather slash costs, cut headcount, replace well-paid employees with lower-paid employees or outsourced workers, and reduce customer service. No wonder so many fail–while others focused on doing the right thing remain profitable and growth oriented for decades. James F. Parker shows why “doing the right thing” isn’t just naïve “feel-goodism:” it’s the most powerful rule for business success. Parker’s stories won’t just convince you: They’ll move you. Naïve? No way. In this book, Southwest Airlines’ former CEO proves why doing what’s right is the #1 rule of business success. James F. Parker tells how after 9/11, Southwest made three pivotal decisions: no layoffs, no pay cuts, and no-hassle refunds for any customer wanting them. The result: Southwest remained profitable and its revenue passenger miles for 4Q01 held steady while the rest of its industry nearly collapsed...and Southwest’s market cap soon exceeded all its major competitors combined. These pivotal decisions grew naturally from Southwest’s culture of mutual respect and trust. Parker offers deeply personal insights into that culture, revealing how those same principles are used by other people and organizations, showing you that it’s really not that hard to Do The Right Thing!

• Why doing what’s right is the surest way to optimize and sustain value • Putting people first...honestly, for real • Finding great leaders at every level of the organization • Hiring for attitude, training for skills • Achieving unprecedented levels of teamwork (and fun!)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A successful company has to focus on more than the bottom line-it has to adhere to the Golden Rule, says Parker, former CEO of low-cost airline Southwest. Southwest was the only major airline to not only remain profitable after 9/11 but to do it without layoffs or pay cuts. Parker presents a chatty, informative history of the airline and its culture of mutual respect and hard work, in which his genuine love for the company shines through. Scattered throughout are observations on how to build and run a successful business, applying the general principle of "When in doubt, just do the right thing." Parker describes the characteristics of a great leader, methods for building trust and respect, and a sober discussion of the necessity of allowing employees to enjoy work and to feel part of something meaningful. Although Parker's enthusiasm for his company is appealing and the lessons are on-target, the long stories describing everything that's superior about Southwest makes the book feel like a long ad for the airline; the story itself is too languid to take off on its own volition. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

Pearson Education
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Read an Excerpt


Most people have a passion for success and creative self expression somewhere deep inside them. They want to be part of something meaningful, to make a contribution, and to find fulfillment in what they do. Sadly, these yearnings are often managed out of people in the unrelenting quest for predictable mediocrity that most organizations pursue. People are seldom encouraged to be themselves, have fun, or seek fulfillment in their jobs. Instead, they are pushed to just do their jobs, meet their quotas, and not make waves. Think outside the box? Proceed at your own peril.

A lot of companies say their employees are their most important asset, but they don’t really mean it. The truth is, they treat employees as depreciable assets, to be used up and then discarded. This is the root cause of the culture of conflict that infects many major corporations today.

You can see the results in any customer service business. When you ask for help at the drug store or hardware store, does the person you ask groan because you interrupted his other duties, or does he cheerfully walk you over to the proper aisle and start telling you about the products you could choose? When the cable guy shows up at your house, does he really care about your business, or does he spend most of his time telling you how lousy the cable company is and that you ought to get satellite?

The truth is that employees who love their jobs will cause customers to love their company. Employees who hate their jobs will make customers hate the company. Quite simply, people who enjoy their work do a better job than people who don’t. And it doesn’t necessarily relate to how much they are paid. From the shop floor to the executive suite, it can fairly be said that the most highly paid people in their professions often do the worst jobs.

The ultimate success of any organization requires consistently excellent performance at every level. Vibrant and successful organizations are not built on a feeling of detachment by employees. Rather, they are built on a culture of engagement, in which employees believe in the mission they are trying to accomplish and know that they are contributing to its success. People who are given the room to succeed usually will.

For 25 years, I had the opportunity to be associated with such a vibrant and successful organization, as outside counsel, then as General Counsel, and finally for three years as CEO of Southwest Airlines. To be sure, I was always thrilled to accept the many honors that were bestowed on our company—Airline of the Year, one of the three most admired companies in America, co-CEO of the year, one of the world’s most socially responsible companies, and so forth. But I never deluded myself into thinking that I had much to do with it. I knew the honors really belonged to our people, who showed their dedication and spirit every day. In fact, in our written communications at Southwest Airlines, we always capitalized the E in Employees, the C in Customers, and the S in Shareholders, to help us remember why we were in business. As the guardian of our corporate culture, President Colleen Barrett was certain to correct anybody who did not show the proper respect for any of these three constituencies in their writing or otherwise.

To those who are looking for a definitive history of Southwest Airlines; or a critical commentary on the brilliant leadership of the company’s legendary cofounder, Herb Kelleher; or what the airline’s business strategy should be from here, this is not your book. Of course, no book that touches on Southwest Airlines can avoid some of the rich stories from its colorful past, or some mention of Herb, but this book is not really about Southwest Airlines. Rather, it is about some of the lessons I learned from working with the people of Southwest Airlines for more than 25 years—mostly frontline workers and employees, whose deeds truly defined the culture for which Southwest Airlines became famous.

The overriding lesson I learned doesn’t involve a lot of management guru buzzwords and acronyms. It is the simplest of principles, which we learned from childhood: When in doubt, just do the right thing. It is still a pretty good rule for doing business, dealing with people, and building successful organizations.

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