Executive excellence

Departing Southwest Airlines boss ranks among America's top CEOs

Departing Southwest Airlines boss ranks among America's top CEOs

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly at opening of Hobby Airport international concourse
Gary Kelly is one of the top 10 CEOs, according to Glassdoor.  Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary C. Kelly is stepping away from the head honcho role in early 2022, but he's leaving with some new accolades from his employees.

Kelly ranks fourth on Glassdoor’s new list of the top 100 CEOs for 2021. He received a 98 percent approval rating from Southwest Airlines employees who shared anonymous feedback on the Glassdoor platform, which publishes reviews and salary information for employers.

“Over the past year, company leaders around the world faced unprecedented challenges to support employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Now, the employees have spoken and it’s clear that these CEOs excelled and found new ways to support their people when the world of work flipped upside down,” Christian Sutherland-Wong, Glassdoor’s CEO, says in a news release.

Kelly is no stranger to the list; in 2019, he ranked 35th in Glassdoor’s annual Employees’ Choice Awards.

Kelly has served as the Dallas-based airlines' CEO since 2004, leading Southwest through some of the industry's most turbulent times. He recently announced he'd be transitioning into the role of executive chairman, to be replaced by executive VP Robert Jordan, effective Feb. 1, 2022. 

The Dallas area has one other entry in the top-100 list. Sean Yalamanchi, chairman and president of Richardson-based Infovision, ranks 55th-ranked on the Glassdoor list. He earned a 93 percent approval rating from employees.

Other Texas executives appearing on the new Glassdoor list are:

  • Third-ranked Dr. Peter Pisters, president of Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center (99 percent approval).
  • Seventh-ranked Charles Butt, CEO of San Antonio-based H-E-B (96 percent).
  • 60th-ranked Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist (93 percent approval).
  • 76th-ranked Worthing Jackman, president and CEO of The Woodlands-based Waste Connections (92 percent approval).

Notably, H-E-B's Central Market division is headquartered in Dallas. H-E-B customers around Texas adore the San Antonio-based grocery chain, which is rapidly expanding its presence in Dallas-Fort Worth with the building of three new stores.

“Under [CEO Charles 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 grocery chain said in a 2019 news release about Butt.

Butt is also recognized as an advocate for public education and literacy.

The Butt family is among the richest families in the country, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $17.8 billion. Florence Butt, Charles’ grandmother, founded the family-owned business in 1905.