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The Secrets of a High Flier

If you couldn’t stand working for yourself, others probably couldn’t either, says JetBlue boss.

According to David Barger, JetBlue president and CEO, good managers should ask themselves one question: “When you look in the mirror, would you like to report to yourself?”

Barger, who helped found JetBlue 14 years ago, was the latest guest in the SMG Dean’s Speaker Series, which has brought to campus industry stars like Ed Weiss, general counsel of Fenway Sports Group, and Gustavo Valle, Dannon CEO.

If the answer back to the mirror is “yes”, he said, then you’re on the right path. And when a challenge arises, Barger added, “Tackle it. Don’t try to put it underground.”

The secret to JetBlue’s success isn’t strong financials or having the best seats or airfares—although the company has them, Barger said. “At the end of the day, that can all be replicated. It does come down to the human equation. It’s our frontline crew members who are making the difference.”

Barger said loyalty grows when employees respect, and connect with, their leader. For that reason, he takes care to attend new-hire orientations, travel frequently, keep active on Twitter, and support socially responsible actions.

Watch Barger’s full discussion with Dean Kenneth W. Freeman, including the story of how he went from customer service agent to airline CEO.