I recently had the privilege of attending a conference in sunny San Francisco with a colleague. As I made my travel plans a few months ago I searched the least expensive direct flights from RDU to SFO, and I landed contentedly, on a ticket from United Airlines. Much to my chagrin, a few days later the internet was on fire with the shocking video of a passenger being “re-accommodated” from a sold-out United Airlines flight. As someone who has had an on-again off-again relationship with the fear of flying, I took several deep breaths and assured myself that United would probably have to be on its best behavior after this high-profile fiasco. A week before my flight, I received a lovely thank-you letter in the mail from United offering me a one-time pass to their United Club and Lounge and wishing me a safe journey to my destination. My anxiety was tempered by this gesture, and I made a very audible sigh of relief as I packed for my trip.

Cut to last week, after a productive and jam-packed few days I was ready to get back home. I checked into my flight which, unsurprisingly these days, was delayed. I started trekking to the nearest outlet to plug in my laptop and try to get some work done while I waited for the ETD update. And then I remembered my one-time pass. I had a little bounce in my step as I glided over to the United Club. Only to be met by a sign “One-Time Passes cannot be redeemed at this location today. We apologize for the inconvenience”. A good Samaritan picked my jaw up from the floor as I stood there shaking my head in disbelief. Here was this opportunity to do something really nice to help rebuild trust in United completely negated by an empty promise.

Now of course in the grand scheme of things this was not a big deal, and I’m sure somewhere in the microscopic print it clearly stated why and when one-time passes could be accepted. But it really underlined why there are such chronic levels of low trust in leadership and organizations today. At InnerWill, we know that Values Based Leadership can have a significant impact on a company’s culture and plays a critical role in preserving organizational integrity and promoting transparency and trust.

Values Based Leadership is living, working, and leading in alignment with one’s core values , and igniting the potential of others by helping them do the same. Living out of alignment with one’s core values results in everything from low trust in leaders to low engagement levels in organizations.

Could Values Based Leadership help United? I think so. Everybody has the potential to expand their capacity to do good – no matter the setting. Our goal at InnerWill is to help people develop their capacity to make positive change, starting first in their own lives and then in the lives of others. If United had followed through on its promise to me – and demonstrated their commitment to improving the customer experience, I probably would have mentioned this good interaction the next time I heard somebody disparaging them. Instead, like many other travelers, I’ll probably be flying Delta the next time I have a choice.


Betsey Fortlouis

Betsey Fortlouis

Betsey has dedicated over 15 years of her career to driving awareness, support, and funding to nonprofits of all sizes. She is passionate about relationship building and believes that scalability and sustainability are at the center of an organization’s success. As our Director of Development and Partnerships, she is responsible for building partnerships and fostering connections with individuals, foundations, and corporations to advance InnerWill’s mission.

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