Executive accolades

3 Dallas business leaders soar in new ranking of top CEOs in U.S.

3 Dallas business leaders soar in new ranking of top CEOs in U.S.

Southwest Airlines airplane
A certain Dallas-based airline CEO ranked high on the list. Southwest Airlines/Facebook

Three Dallas veterans of the travel and tourism industry are flying high in a new ranking of the country’s top CEOs.

Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines; Peter Strebel, president of Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts; and Steve Barick, chief operating officer of Irving-based Highgate Hotels, are among the honorees in Glassdoor’s annual Employees’ Choice Awards, recognizing the top 100 CEOs of 2019. The three men appear in the category for large employers.

Kelly, who has worked at Southwest for more than 30 years, is the highest-ranked CEO in Dallas, landing at No. 35 with an approval rating of 95 percent.

“The CEO is in a high-profile role and sets an example,” Kelly told HuffPost in 2018. “I try to aspire to set a good one, and model the behaviors that we value and expect at Southwest Airlines.”

During a 2013 Q&A at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, Kelly was asked what sets Southwest apart as an employer.

“The first word that comes to my mind is family,” Kelly replied. “I think family does the best job of summarizing the passion or emotion we want to bring to the workforce.”

At No. 58 is Strebel, who garnered an approval rating of 94 percent. He’s a longtime employee of Omni; in 2018, he was promoted to president.

In a 2018 interview with Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, Strebel said his top priority as head of Omni is to protect and advance the corporate culture.

Strebel said he wants to ensure “that every associate understands what our mission is and what our core values are and keep that going, but obviously evolve those missions and core values as the business climate changes, because not all things stay the same.”

Barick, the longtime chief operating officer of Irving-based Highgate Hotels, claimed the 97th spot with an approval rating of 90 percent.

On its website, Highgate says the company “fosters an inspiring and inclusive culture that helps to make us best-in-class in the hospitality world. Unlimited career growth, inspiring leadership and long-term career possibilities are just some of the reasons why the most talented individuals in the hospitality world carve out long-term relationships within Highgate.”

Sitting atop the Glassdoor list of CEOs at large employers is Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare. Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of San Antonio-based H-E-B, is in second place, followed by In-N-Out Burger’s Lynsi Snyder, T-Mobile’s John Legere, and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen.

“Under [Butt’s] leadership, the desire to constantly innovate has led to new store concepts, the creation of one of the most successful private label programs in the country, and the commitment to build out state-of-the-art digital products and services to complement H-E-B’s world-class stores,” the company says in a release about the Glassdoor recognition.

The only other Texan to make the Glassdoor list is Dr. Peter Pisters, who’s been president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston since 2017. He ranked 47th with a 94 percent approval rating.

In a letter sent to faculty and staff after he was named to the post, Pisters wrote that he looked forward to collaborating with his new MD Anderson colleagues on the hospital’s “profound purpose” of wiping out cancer.

“My promise to you is we will do so with a strong moral compass and principles of values-based servant leadership,” Pisters wrote. “The honor of serving as your president is one that I both respect and am humbled by, and I will spare no effort in working with you to build upon and extend MD Anderson’s unparalleled history of success.”