Last week I read an incredible book called Empowering Leadership by Michael Fletcher. This book was dripping with organizational and leadership gold. My copy has notations, markings and underlines on virtually every page.

Perhaps the most fascinating nugget in the book was how Fletcher integrated lessons from Chick-Fil-A’s approach to leadership development, in his own organization. he records how this simple tool racially improved his team’s ability to develop leadership in others. When developing leaders from within the organization, Chick-Fil-A uses a leadership definition based on the acronym S.E.R.V.E.

Chick-Fil-A’s Leadership Definition:

  • S – See the Future
  • E – Engage and Develop Others
  • R – Reinvent Continually
  • V – Value Relationships and Results
  • E – Embody Values

Fletcher, who leads a large and growing church in North Carolina, jettisoned his organizations typical “volunteer centric” language and leveraged the empowering and “leader centric” framework based on S.E.R.V.E. As he writes in his book, the ramifications and impact of this shift dramatically altered the trajectory of engagement in his organization. While Fletcher’s environment is faith based, the principles espoused here transfer seamlessly to any organization.

Our influence grows exponentially when we develop the leadership of others. The Chick-Fil-A framework provides an incredible lens through which to evaluate our own efficacy as leaders, as well as a road map toward helping those we influence grow on their own leadership journey. Contrary to much of the leadership training material on the market, this approach supposes that the goal of developing leaders is not a better work force or more labor for our organization. The goal of developing the people we lead is the that they become better people. A secondary result is that the investment will inevitably pay organizational dividends.

The language of S.E.R.V.E still demands strong and decisive leadership. But it does so from a lens that assumes and implies that the fundamental role of a leader to serve others and help them become better, not merely to move them from one place to another for organizational gain.

A great way to use this framework, is to ask the following questions. Ask them about your own leadership and how you are doing developing others.

S.E.R.V.E Leadership Evaluation Questions:

  • S – How many times each week do I look to see and understand the future?
  • E – How many times each week do I engage and develop others?
  • R – How many times each week do I assess my current situation and look to reinvent?
  • V – How many times each week do I value both relationships and results
  • E – How many times each week do I consciously embody the values of my organization?

If the answer for anyone of these questions is a low number, or heaven forbid… zero… then we have work to do.

What do you think about the S.E.R.V.E. Leadership definition? What insights do you have? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

2 thoughts on “5 Leadership Lessons from Chick-Fil-A

  1. Few years ago, I read a book by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller with the title, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the content. I loved it. Most leaders now don’t serve, instead, they expect people below to serve them.

    As for me, I believe the true essence of leadership is to serve. To serve by providing the environment where everyone grows as a person, then as a team player, then ultimately, as a leader as well — in order to pass on the experience to others.

    Thanks for sharing! It’s a great summary.

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