Lead­er­ship in­sights from Ch­eryl Bachelder

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - DAVID WIL­SON

On March 2 I got to meet Ch­eryl Bachelder, the out­go­ing CEO of Popeyes restau­rants and au­thor of the 2015 book “Dare to Serve.”

She had made a pre­sen­ta­tion on lead­er­ship that was both prac­ti­cal and in­spi­ra­tional at the Sum­mit lun­cheon at Cross Church in Rogers, and was sign­ing copies of her book af­ter­wards.

Be­cause I wanted to learn more from her, I bought a copy.

Bachelder was tak­ing time not only to sign each book but to get to know each per­son that ap­proached her.

When I stepped up I in­tro­duced my­self and she said, “And what do you do?”

“I’m tem­po­rar­ily re­tired,” I said.

“Me too!” she replied, and held up her hand to give me a high five.

I laughed and ca­su­ally smacked her up­held palm.

“What did you re­tire from?” she asked.

“I was a school ad­min­is­tra­tor,” I replied, “but I’m still want­ing to work in ed­u­ca­tion or in a re­lated field. It’s kind of an in­ter­est­ing jour­ney to see where I’ll end up.”

She said, “Oh it will hap­pen, prob­a­bly when you least ex­pect it.”

I thanked her for the in­sights she had shared as she started writ­ing in my book. When she fin­ished, I said, “Thank you for com­ing our way to­day.”

It was just a short ex­change of words, but it was long enough for me to see that Bachelder has a win­some per­son­al­ity.

She also demon­strated an abil­ity and a will­ing­ness to con­nect with peo­ple — a char­ac­ter­is­tic of good lead­er­ship.

Dur­ing her pre­sen­ta­tion she told of how her con­vic­tions in life had so­lid­i­fied; she also told of what they had done at Popeyes to make it more suc­cess­ful.

Bachelder men­tioned two ways in which her con­vic­tions formed: from her par­ents’ in­flu­ence and from life’s hard­ships.

“Most of my con­vic­tions about lead­er­ship have come from my up­bring­ing,” she said, and then de­scribed her par­ents. “Our din­ner tables were a class­room about val­ues and core be­liefs.”

She also told of two very dif­fi­cult times in her life and how they helped her to fo­cus on those things that truly mat­ter. In her 40s she had to fight breast cancer. In 2003, when she was the pres­i­dent of KFC, she was fired. She said it was a sit­u­a­tion that was pub­lic and hu­mil­i­at­ing.

In both in­stances, she said she strug­gled be­cause things were out of her con­trol. The dif­fi­cul­ties, in her words, “brought me to the end of my­self.”

Bachelder ex­plained that con­vic­tions come from “the messy parts of our lives,” and that hard­ships are very hum­bling. They also re­mind us of what is re­ally im­por­tant.

She talked of her faith and the con­vic­tions that

she has de­vel­oped.

The lead­er­ship team at Popeyes de­vel­oped a ser­vant-type of lead­er­ship, and Bachelder elab­o­rated on that in her pre­sen­ta­tion and in her book, ex­plain­ing that the hum­ble and un­selfish ap­proach is the best way to go as a leader. An un­selfish ap­proach on the part of the leader will cre­ate job sat­is­fac­tion and mean­ing­ful re­sults for oth­ers.

In ad­di­tion, Bachelder ex­plained in her book that

at work it is the leader’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide pur­pose and mean­ing in all that is done.

“Pur­pose and mean­ing,” she wrote, “are es­sen­tial to cre­at­ing a high-per­for­mance or­ga­ni­za­tion. When peo­ple be­lieve their work mat­ters, they con­trib­ute dif­fer­ently. They ar­rive early and stay late. They find cre­ative so­lu­tions to prob­lems. They build their skills so they can add more value. They work col­lab­o­ra­tively to en­sure the suc­cess of the team. They stay on the job longer. Pur­pose and mean­ing at work raise the en­ergy level, com­mit­ment,

and per­for­mance of the team.”

To put it another way, peo­ple need to be ap­pre­ci­ated at work and should be en­cour­aged to use their ex­per­tise to make mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions.

As I got into my ve­hi­cle to leave the Sum­mit on March 2, I won­dered what Bachelder had specif­i­cally writ­ten in my book, so I opened it: “Dear David, May you be en­cour­aged in your jour­ney to find your next ad­ven­ture! Ch­eryl Bachelder.” How fit­ting. In con­vers­ing with me for just a few sec­onds she knew enough to write

some­thing that was com­pletely ap­pli­ca­ble. She prob­a­bly con­nects with peo­ple ev­ery day in the same way. May her in­flu­ence con­tinue.

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