I just finished one of the most inspiring leadership books I’ve read in a long time – Dare to Serve – How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. It’s so good that it now sits on my book shelf right next to my signed copy of Max De Pree’s leadership classic – Leadership is an Art.
So what makes this book so inspiring, engaging and helpful?
First, is Cheryl’s thesis – “When you choose to humbly serve others and courageously lead them to daring destinations, the team will give you their very best performance” p. 9. Cheryl’s value based, people centered leadership philosophy is not only right on, it’s a desperately needed message in the celebrity driven, leader centered culture found in so many organizations today.
Second, there’s Cheryl’s courage. Think about it, how many CEO’s of a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company, would dare to proclaim such a contrarian idea as one that says – you can lead teams to great performance by serving them? And, of course, courage in others is always inspiring.
Third, Cheryl is not only a student of leadership, she is a leader. Her book isn’t filled with theories but reflects what she’s learned by actually leading people and organizations. Which means this book is a case study in leadership and, specifically, in leading the turnaround of a struggling organization.
Finally, I’ve spent some time with Cheryl, so I can vouch for the fact that, as a leader and, more importantly as a person, she’s the real deal, which only affirms that her book is the real deal.
So if you’re a leader of any kind or aspire to be one, Dare to Serve gives you a great roadmap to become a better leader. It will inspire you to lead humbly and courageously so that you and your team will win.
Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in an era, to think that what was standard “back then” must still be standard today. We think this because we believe really smart people had it all figured out back then (translation – it’s not possible someone today could actually be smarter than we were yesterday, thus it’s impossible anyone today could figure out a better or different way).
My toes, in particular my left big toe, paid the price for such shoddy (and arrogant) thinking.
This is how it happened. A couple of months before our trip my son, MD, and I were reviewing our equipment list. He mentioned having found a good deal on trekking poles, implying I might want to buy some as well. I told him, with serious conviction, “I’ve never hiked with trekking poles before. I’ve always used just a simple walking stick and it has worked pretty well”.
Now honestly, I was also thinking to myself “the only people I’ve ever remember using trekking poles were old people and wimps. And since I’m not old nor a wimp I sure as heck wasn’t going to be using them.” (I was also having doubts about my son’s manhood).
I should have realized the first day I was in deep trouble when I was both one of the oldest hikers and the only one without trekking poles.
You see the developers of the AT must have liked to hike up and down mountains because we walked up and down mountains multiple times a day. We rarely walked on flat ground; it was always up or down. As a result I quickly began to experience toe jam (toe jam is where your toes are constantly being jammed into the front of your shoes when going downhill) resulting in swollen toes and later, as I experienced, losing your toe nails.
By the painful third day it finally dawned on me why everyone was using trekking poles. Trekking poles break your downward steps. They take the pressure off your feet (and knees) helping to avoid toe jam among other injuries. Suddenly I saw all these young hikers, including my son, not as wimps but as smart and pragmatic, and I, in turn, was the aching, old fool.
So what’s the AT leadership lesson in all of this? Never assume that what worked yesterday is still the best option today. Be humble enough to believe that people are as smart today (or smarter) than we were yesterday. As a result it’s highly likely that methods have improved or new technology has been developed today that solves the problems we experienced yesterday (like toe jam). If we can embrace this reality about yesterday and today, our toes will be happier, and we’ll be better leaders.
Forgive my blogging holiday but I took a needed break from writing. But now it’s time to return to the series “What Could Cause Me to Lose My Job?” In my last post we examined the root cause of the seven attitudes and behaviors that lead to so many job failures – arrogance and its sister self-righteousness (arrogance disguised as humility). Over the next several posts we’ll look at each of these seven attitudes and behaviors in more detail.
The first behavior that grows from arrogance and self-righteousness is the misuse of power and authority. It begins with the attitude that “I deserve something more than I’m receiving as part of my job agreement”. This attitude leads to taking advantage of our positions for personal and financial benefits, perks or simply better working conditions than what’s offered to others.
Most of the time people with these attitudes express it in subtle ways, whether there’s a certain parking spot, nicer hotel rooms than the rest of the team, longer lunches, or in the way they treat and expect to be treated by those “under them”. But the message is clear – “I deserve this, it’s owed to me”.
Yet these subtle behaviors normally don’t get a person fired (unless it’s something blatant like major theft from the organization). What does cause a person to lose their job is the erode their influence and credibility consequences of their misuse of power and authority. People begin to doubt their motives, mistrust what they say and simply grow tired of working with and for them.
Finally, it’s important to remember that both power and authority are not inherently evil. They are gifts from God-given to us as leaders to advance His plans and His Kingdom. So we should embrace power and authority but only doing so through exercising extreme caution of their ability to corrupt, in a posture of humility and for the purpose of making a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world.43.928283-85.286682
In my previous post I shared the seven behaviors that cause job failure for people in organizations such as SpringHill. But before we dive into these seven behaviors we need to understand their root cause – arrogance and its disguise – self-righteousness.
Arrogance, by definition, is thinking of oneself more highly than merited, it’s an exaggerated view of one’s self and their contributions to an organization. Arrogance often leads to aggressive, self-centered and ultimately destructive behavior. As a result we know an arrogant person when we meet one. There is just an air about them. And, though we may respect what such a person accomplishes, we rarely like their odor.
Self-righteousness, on the other hand, is arrogance disguised as humility. And because humility is just a ruse, it never truly bottles up the arrogance inside. Yet self-righteous people can be remarkable at managing their behavior and speech to appear humble, leaving us unsure about odor we smell. But in the end managed behavior always has cracks, cracks that leak the person’s arrogance. And arrogance has an odor all its own, making it easy to distinguish from true humility and righteousness’ fragrance.
And what is this odor? It’s the seven behaviors arrogant and self-righteous people to often display and which ultimately leads to their job failure. And it’s these seven behaviors we’ll look at over the next few posts.43.928283-85.286682
Sometimes it seems things happen with the intended purpose of reminding us that we have less control over life than we want to believe. Sometimes these things make their point with irony and humor as it did today for my family and a couple of our friends.
You see, early Thursday morning a huge snow storm moved into northern Michigan and, over the next 36 hours, dumped tons of wet snow onto our world.
By early Thursday afternoon we were without power. Even though, with each passing hour, the temperature of our house dropped, our family went to bed optimistic we’d have power before we awoke.
But when Denise and I got up on Friday morning there was still no power and the house was now at 57 degrees and still dropping. And the word from the power company was that we may not have electricity for a “few days”.
So what to do? I texted Joel Hamilton, SpringHill Michigan’s Site Director, looking for any news or helpful insight he may have. He informed me that Eric Woods, our Retreats Director had a generator he wasn’t using.
Within 30 minutes Joel and Eric arrived at our house with Eric’s 15-year-old generator. Within another 20 minutes we had the generator started, properly hooked up to the house, and, most importantly, our furnace was running.
As we stood congratulating ourselves on a job well done Joel received a phone call, “Hollywood’s power is back on.” Now you need to know Hollywood is our neighbor, which meant that if he now had power we must have it too.
So we disconnected the generator, turned on the main breaker and, lo and behold, we had power.
In the time it took us to turn off the main breaker and hook up the generator the power had come back on. Which led us to have a good laugh at the mockery the power company made of our good work.c
It also led to our daughter Christina declaring, after 24 hours of no heat, it’s “The Miracle on 100th Avenue”.43.928283-85.286682
“The whale that spouts first gets harpooned first” was one of the first things I learned in 1984 as I started in the management training program at Steelcase, Inc. A quote attributed to its then CEO and chairman, Bob Pew.
The message was clear – we shouldn’t talk about how good we are as a company. We just needed to demonstrate it through our superior products, service and value. The need to “spout” indicated more serious issues, issues that would eventually lead to being “harpooned”.
Being understated was a strong value of Steelcase’s and it permeated the entire company’s culture. It’s a value that continues to influence my career and as a result influences SpringHill.
It’s so integrated into my own values that I hadn’t thought much about the quote until one day, late in July, I drove by this sports bar in a small town near Marion, Indiana.
The sign on the side of the building read “Best Damn Sportsbar Period”.
The owners surely hadn’t gone through Steelcase’s management training program. Because if they had, they’d had known not to spend money spouting off on signs. But instead they would have invested that money and energy into the service and experience they provided their customers with the result being that they wouldn’t have needed that final sign I saw in the window.43.928283-85.286682