On October 12, 2023, the Council for Quality Growth held its 34th annual Four Pillar Tribute in honor of my good friend, Ed Bastian, Chief Executive Officer of Delta Air Lines, for his leadership and commitment to serving the Atlanta region, state of Georgia, and far beyond. Bastian’s chosen theme for the evening was Leading with Purpose, which characterizes his 25-year career at Delta. The 2023 Four Pillar Tribute was presented by American Express, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Chick-fil-A, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power, the New York Stock Exchange – An ICE Exchange, and UPS. Bastian received this award among friends, family, and 1,300 other guests in the Georgia Ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center.
Rob Ross, 2023 Chairman of the Council for Quality Growth and Senior Vice President of Kimley-Horn, presented Bastian with the Four Pillar Award. In his acceptance, Ed focused on his commitment to leading with purpose and his love for Atlanta. Since stepping into the CEO role in 2016, Bastian has been a champion of true servant leadership, continually putting Delta people and their customers first. This dedication to his people is infectious. He’s created a team of 100,000 that serve with his same level of pride and commitment. “Wherever service is required,” said Bastian, “you’re going to find Delta people. We have a unity of purpose, and it is to serve.”
The Four Pillar Tribute is about leadership and how the recipient displays the ‘Four Pillars’ of leadership – Quality, Responsibility, Vision, and Integrity – through their work and in their everyday lives. A distinguished group of speakers paid tribute to Bastian. On Quality, Ginni Rometty, Former Chairman, President & CEO of IBM, told a metaphor of a tree. “Ed believes his most important job is to water and nurture those roots, his people,” she said, “so they can learn and grow in their own careers and so they can serve the customers, partners, and communities of Delta all around the world.” Rometty referenced Bastian’s high-quality leadership through difficult times, and praised his commitment to creating opportunity, ensuring safety, and elevating the customer experience, all for his Delta people.
I had the honor of speaking on Responsibility. I reflected on my friendship with Ed and how that level of responsibility to others translates to his role as CEO. I told the audience who clearly resonated with the sentiment that “when you climb in a foxhole, you want Ed Bastian with you. Thanks to Ed’s responsible leadership, Delta employees genuinely believe their employer cares about them.
The evening also featured remarks from Georgia’s 83rd Governor, Brian Kemp, and Atlanta’s 61st Mayor, Andre Dickens, welcomed guests to the City of Atlanta. Dan T. Cathy, Chairman of Chick-fil-A, Lynn Martin, President of the New York Stock Exchange, and Deisha Barnett, President of Global Communications also spoke on behalf of their companies. Pastor Kevin Myers of 12Stone Church, a close friend of Bastian, delivered the invocation.