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7 Business Tips From Former American Airlines CEO Thomas Horton

Every great leader has their tips and tricks for success and Thomas Horton, former CEO of American Airlines, is no exception. On March 25, students filed into the Student Activity Center auditorium at The University of Texas at Austin to hear Horton speak as part of the VIP Distinguished Speaker Series. Organized by the Undergraduate Business Council at the McCombs School of Business, the lecture series invites influential executives to come share their stories and advice with students. David E. Platt, Dean of Undergraduate Programs at McCombs, conducted the interview.

Horton gave attendees seven top takeaways: 

1. Tone at the top.

"I'm a strong believer in tone at the top. I think the tone you set with what you say and do matter a lot. And who you hire is really important because they’re setting the tone at the top of their chain."

2. Think ethically.

"I think that we all have a duty to be ethical and behave in a way that's responsible."

3. Be humble.

"Have more than you show, speak less than you know. I figure anytime you get Shakespeare and George Strait saying the same thing, it's good. In all seriousness, it comes to humility. I don't care if you're the guy tossing the bags or the CEO — it's important to remember your place in the universe and to be humble."

4. Make the tough decisions.

"We're going to do some things that are hard and they aren't going to benefit everybody, but we're trying to create the best outcome for the most people in the end."

5. Capitalism is good.

"Capitalism has done a really good job at raising living standards around the world for hundreds of millions of people. So as a leader in business, I think a lot about being successful in producing a good product for our customers which will produce a good product for our owners, which really, and more importantly, will produce security and hopefully growth in jobs."

6. Work hard.

"If you want to succeed, you've got to work hard. There's no substitute for hard work — I don't care what college you went to."

7. Just keep running.

"I usually get up at about 5:30 a.m. and shoot straight out the door to get a run in wherever I am in the world. I just find that it's a great way to clear the head and level yourself for the day."

Photo courtesy of Sarah Mithani. 

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