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Gut Check: Do You Effectively Serve Those That You Lead?

15-03-30 Popeyes

According to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen CEO Cheryl Bachelder, the secret of being a great leader is learning to serve the people you lead, not just order them around.

This is actually not a new idea in leadership. The whole concept of the “servant leader” has been around for more than 40 years and was developed by Robert K. Greenleaf and later popularized by Larry Spears.

At its core, servant leadership espouses that great leaders reject hoarding of power and instead share power – leadership is about service to others.[Tweet “Leadership is about service to others #servantleader”]

However, when you look around our world, it’s often hard to find leaders who espouse this kind of leadership philosophy.

This is why I find Bachelder’s story so interesting.

When Bachelder took over Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in 2007, the stock had fallen to just $13 a share, a mere third of where it had been five years previous.

Bachelder rebuilt the leadership culture at Popeyes, and in the process found new ways to support and nurture franchise owners. Sales took off and so did market share. Today, Popeyes has a market cap of $1.4 billion and the stock trades near $60.

In an interview with Business Insider, she said that she quickly learned that to drive success, she needed to mix as Jim Collins positions, “personal humility and professional will. (Great leaders) are ambitious for the company, not themselves.” Characteristics that are foundational for servant leadership.

These are big and lofty leadership ideas. But what I’m always interested in learning is how do these ideas get translated day-to-day by leaders?

Bachelder provides her insights in her new book, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results While Serving Others.

For Bachelder, great leadership means not bothering to worry about whether she gets recognition or credit, and spending more time listening than talking. “When you listen,” Bachelder said, “you hear people’s objections, anxieties and fears – and you also hear the solutions.”[Tweet “Great leaders are ambitious for the company, and not themselves. #humility #success”]

As Bachelder preaches the gospel of the servant leader, it’s not hard to see the power in her approach. A CEO that can stay in touch with the needs of his or her employees is in a much better position to drive engagement and, ultimately, bottom-line results. And by not making self-aggrandizement a primary goal of leadership, CEOs can count on loyalty and trust.

These days, it seems that more and more CEOs are out to make a name for themselves, often at the expense of their organizations. Or, they insist on taking credit for everything their organizations do, ignoring the need to at least share the credit with the people who helped make success possible.

It’s a simple concept, but one that remains out of reach for so many leaders. The hard reality is that more humility, and less self-promotion, would serve many business leaders well.

This week’s Gut Check question: do you effectively serve those that you lead?

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About the Author

Vince Molinaro is a speaker, consultant, executive at Lee Hecht Harrison, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Leadership Contract now in its third edition.

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