5 CEOs on their recession plans

Fortune asked five chief executives whose companies made this year's Most Admired all-star list how they're managing in a recession, what keeps them up at night, and when they think the economy will get its groove back.

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Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines
Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines
What keeps me up at night: We've never had a layoff. We've never had a pay cut. And we're going to strive mightily, especially this year, to avoid them once again. I worry about that every day. And I don't worry about much, but I worry about that. And it's not in the sense that I don't want our record to be broken. That's not the point.

Be flexible with staffing: We are not planning on growing our headcount for the year. We're clearly in an environment where we're slowing our growth. That means we're overstaffed in some areas. So we're being more creative about encouraging employees to move about in the company. We are doing that at a very reasoned pace so that we are not threatening people, in other words, with their jobs.

Sign of the times: The most dramatic step that we've taken is that for the first time in our history, we've cut our flight activity and will be flying fewer trips than we did in '08. But we are still growing key markets like Denver and San Francisco, while pruning unpopular, and thus unproductive, flights.

What not to do in a downturn: What I have to guard against is using previous downturns as a road map and assuming that, "Oh, yeah, things are going to happen just like they did in, say, 1991."

The only way out of this mess: The credit crisis has to be solved for us to have any expectation of a recovery. You need banks to start lending. And I think for banks to start lending, they must have confidence in their own balance sheets.

NEXT: Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola
Last updated March 02 2009: 7:50 AM ET
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