“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Nelson Mandela
If you enjoy fried chicken, chances are that at one time or another you’ve eaten at Popeye’s Chicken. In 2007, Cheryl Bachelder took over as CEO of the company (technically, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen), which was in serious trouble. The company had gone through four CEOs in seven years, guest traffic had declined, store sales were dropping, there were no new products in the pipeline, and the stock price had fallen from $34 in 2002 to $13 in 2007.
Very quickly, Ms. Bachelder established a “road map for results” or “pillars” for Popeye’s that focused on: building a distinctive brand, running great restaurants, growing restaurant profits and accelerating quality openings. Additionally, she created a new leadership model and culture based on serving others called “servant leadership.” Servant leadership is a model where the leader is in service to the people of an organization. According to Ms. Bachelder, it “is one in which a leader subverts him or herself from their own desires and share power and offer the opportunity for collaboration and decision making and have very strong integrity to right and wrong so the people understand that they can be trusted and there can be credibility in the way they operate with the people.”
So, who did Ms. Bachelder and her management team choose first to serve and make happy? The choice wasn’t easy as there was a fairly long list to choose from: guests, employees, shareholders and franchise owners. Ultimately, the management team chose franchise owners as their first and top priority. In fact, the team decided that not only would they “like” their franchisees, but they would come to “love” them as well. According to Ms. Bachelder, “We would love the franchisees for making huge investments in our people and our restaurants. We would love them for their passion. We would love them enough to listen to their point of view and their business experience.” She notes that if you love the people you lead, you get to know them well in terms of their strengths, their values and their life experiences. So, that means that you celebrate them, thank them and even occasionally, hug them in an “HR-appropriate” way.
Ms. Bachelder’s servant leadership has resulted in superior results. Not only is Popeye’s franchisee satisfaction rating up to 93% from 76%, but its stock price has gone from $13 in 2007 to $54 as of November 20th. Moreover, domestic restaurant sales have climbed 30 percent and operating profits are up 40 percent. Finally, there are presently more than 1,600 franchised restaurants in the U.S. and 2,000 restaurants worldwide. In September, Ms. Bachelder received the 2015 Norman Award which recognizes restaurant industry executives whose leadership, philosophy and actions have a significant impact in the industry.
As Ms. Bachelder demonstrates, tremendous results can be obtained when you lead not only with your head, but also with your heart. Leading with your head is necessary to create a strategy, a plan, setting goals, following a budget and holding your team accountable to a plan’s actions and processes. Leading with our head is about competence and knowledge. Leading with your heart involves making people happy. We need to love our teams (whether at work or in our personal lives) and find ways to lift them up, unearth their strongest skills, help them discover their purpose and make them feel like they are a part of achieving a company’s goals while motivating them to perform at their highest levels. At the same time, must also be empathetic and forgive them when they stumble and make mistakes. Leading with your heart is about listening, being compassionate and putting others before yourself.
“True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.”- Sheri L Dew