Servant Leadership in Action

Servant Leadership

What Is Servant Leadership?

By Ken Blanchard

What do you think of when you hear the term servant leadership? Do you picture a workplace culture where managers and direct reports work side by side, set goals, collaborate on projects, solve problems and celebrate victories together? Or do you picture a chaotic scene from a movie where the inmates are running the prison?

If you don’t understand servant leadership, it may be because you think people can’t lead and serve at the same time. But they can, if they recognize that there are two kinds of leadership involved in servant leadership: strategic and operational.

Strategic leadership has to do with vision and direction. It’s the leadership aspect of servant leadership. Leadership is about going somewhere. If you and your people don’t know where you are going, your leadership doesn’t matter. A compelling vision ensures everyone is going in the same direction. Once the organization has a compelling vision, they can set goals and define strategic initiatives that help people know what to focus on right now. The traditional hierarchical pyramid is effective for this part of servant leadership because, while the leader should involve experienced people in helping to shape direction, the ultimate responsibility remains with the leader and cannot be delegated to others.


“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” –Theodore Hesburgh


As soon as people are clear on where they are going, the hierarchical pyramid is philosophically turned upside-down. Now the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset for operational leadership, which has to do with implementation. The question now is: How do we live according to the vision and accomplish the establish goals? Implementation is the servant aspect of servant leadership. It includes policies, systems, and leader behaviors that flow from senior management to frontline employees—and make it possible for people in the organization to live according to the vision and values and accomplish short-term goals and initiatives.


Create a Servant Leadership Culture

The First Step in Solving Your Biggest Problems


This is a guest post by Mark Miller. Mark is the best-selling author of six books, an in-demand speaker, and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-Fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture, outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu


Take the First Step

I’m guessing much of your life and leadership is devoted to problem-solving.

If you aren’t trying to fix the problems you currently face, you are probably attempting to anticipate, and proactively respond to, problems on the horizon. Maybe the problem you are trying to address is how to continue to fuel your current success – a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Problem-solving is a part of a leader’s ever-present reality.

I’ve been searching for years for ways to make my investment in this critical activity more fruitful. Today I’ll share some practices that have helped make our team’s problem-solving efforts more effective.

Let’s begin our deep dive on the topic with a mistake I’ve personally witnessed thousands of times. Before I share it, brace yourself for a blinding flash of the obvious! Are you ready?


“Problem solving is a part of a leader’s ever-present reality.” -Mark Miller


Don’t solve for symptoms.

How to Drive Superior Results By Serving Others

A Bold Ambition to Serve

Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve?

It has been my privilege and passion to speak about servant leadership in forums all over the world. My free e-book on Leading With Others In Mind has been downloaded thousands of times around the world.

Not too long ago, I read a compelling new book on the topic, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. The author is not just an author, but the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., a multibillion-dollar global chain. Prior to Popeyes, she held leadership positions at Yum! Brands, Domino’s Pizza, RJR Nabisco, the Gillette Company, and P&G.

Back to the opening question: Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve?

Cheryl asks that tough question in this book and goes on to explain why the answer is key to delivering superior results.


“Most of us…have jobs that are too small for our spirits.” –Studs Terkel


Fired! How a Humbling Event Changed Everything

Cheryl, your book, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others, starts out with a humble account of you getting fired. That seems to have been a turning point for you personally and professionally. How did this contribute to your beliefs?

Thankfully there have been several humbling events in my life – events that reminded me that I am not in control, I am not God. I have found the trials in my life, like facing breast cancer or getting fired from KFC, were the events that led me to new insights and personal growth. They have made me a better person and a better leader.

Losing my job made me question my leadership and business capability. This crisis of confidence led me to a ruthless review of my wiring, my strengths, my values and my experiences. In that process, I gained conviction about who I was and importantly, what kind of leader I wanted to be. When I came to the Popeyes opportunity, I was refreshed and ready to lead out of these convictions.


“You prove what you measure.” –Popeyes Mantra


Cheryl Bachelder, Used by Permission Cheryl Bachelder, Used by Permission

The Benefits of Daring to Serve

Would you share some of the benefits leaders receive if they adopt the Dare to Serve leadership model?

The benefits are many. Leading this way has been the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience of my career. And I think the Leadership Team at Popeyes would say the same thing.

It has been incredibly challenging to transform the culture, the business, and the leaders simultaneously. Chasing the bold goals sets the bar high – which leads us to be more innovative – which leads us go assemble amazing people – which leads us to be tenacious and determined to get to the daring destination. We are better leaders because we are stretching and learning continuously.

The decision to serve our franchise owners well has focused us on a process of building alignment – to define the problem together and to solve together – and has built strong, productive relationships with our most important partners. Sometimes this feels slow or inefficient, but once aligned, it has enabled incredible speed to market.

And finally, the rewarding experience of bringing together a capable team – then nurturing and developing their leadership qualities. This is essential to performance in a fast growing company, but it is also important, purposeful work that can leave a legacy of future leaders.


“Personal purpose accelerates employee engagement and organizational performance.” -@CABachelder


Set Off to a Daring Destination