Leadership Is An Extreme Sport!

Our business lives are about superior performance, over-achieving results, and greater productivity. We get that, and the comments we hear are the by-product of a powerful machine leading with a servant’s heart, not the engine. Servant leadership is not being a doormat to people’s wants, it is building something capable of great performance and huge goals. Servant leadership is the engine; and performance is the exhaust pipe.  If results are the engine, then transactions dominate over transformation, and transactions are fleeting.

So many managers get this incorrect, and instead strive to direct more, to correct, or to  blame. The best organizations are those that have a learning culture.

Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Chicken restaurants recently spoke on Blanchard Summit series, discussing her real world perspective of how servant leadership dramatically turned around a slumping business, and instead made it legendary.

Extreme sports research shows the link between courage and humility. The courage makes sense in discussing extreme sports, but humility? The humility comes in testing yourself in environments where you don’t know the outcome and where failure is likely. You humble yourself in that situation.  

Leadership is an extreme sport!
First define what kind of leader you want to be, before deciding how to better serve your customers. We cannot do right by the business or our teams, if we do not see right. We need to see ourselves clearly, the greatness of others, and the opportunities in the environment.

“Customers are #2, employees are #1 – Bill Marriott and Herb Kelleher

How does the leadership team talk about the sales force? Or the legal team? And the HR group? Culture for Popeyes focused on franchisees, and they realized they talked badly about those franchisees. The leaders adopted the attitude that the franchisee was literally their whole success. That was ok for boardroom talk, but they needed to change the words and languages of all their people, their teams, and especially their leaders  when they were talking about the franchisee. With more servant leadership and positive language, the Popeyes results, engagement, and results of franchisees markedly improved. Change your words; change your world.

Cheryl said, “…servant leadership impacts the culture of how we interact and communicate, and it’s not all we do. We establish great business practices to also drive performance – servant leadership only works with performance. Performance creates opportunities and promotes engagement for new goals.”

Their vision was developed from some simple concepts, like:
* We wanted to inspire servant leaders to achieve superior results.
* To have passion for what we do.
* Listen and learn from all around us.
* Facts are the governor to our passion.
* We want to coach for growth.
* Everyone acts as an owner- we own the outcome (responsibility).

They also asked others why we work. Cheryl spoke to another CEO and his response to that comment was “to put his kids through college.” He said, “I gotta work, then maybe someday I will enjoy and value activities like being a missionary in India like my parents.”

Work was a means to an end.

She spoke to another CEO owner who found their purpose was he that loved helping people, and wanted their customers to feel good – that was her hairdresser Chris. He loved his work and that was his purpose. Happiness is less the goal, rather it is more about learning our purpose. In that, we have meaning and it drives our value with others, which transcends all things and drives all happiness. For most of us, having more money won’t solve our problems.

Society sees leadership as men in shiny suits standing by their airplane – largely alone. The mindset shift in servant leadership is, it is all about others.  

What should we do if our CEO doesn’t get it? We should live servant leadership fully, shaping our team, leaving others wondering why you and your team are getting such great results, always smiling, exuding happiness, and so engaged!

Leadership at universities is treated like an extracurricular activity. It is not, and slowly we are beginning to teach leadership courses, not management courses.

Check Popeyes restaurant Wall Street results since Cheryl joined in 2007. Rockstar! Amazing!



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