Meeting the CEO of Chick-Fil-A
Meet Servant Leadership
Leadership is something that I find remarkably interesting. I used to hear stories and teachings on what servant leadership was about. I have heard preachers and some of the greatest business minds like Dale Carnegie break down the irrefutable power and influence of servant leadership. I used to wonder what all of this looked like. What I learned from such great men, made me think “greatness equals serving people.” I have heard people who are believers and non-believers alike quote Jesus in these simple words “let the greatest among you serve”, but what does that really mean. I thought I knew, and to be honest I saw this from other people’s lives in varying degrees, but there was no greater form of servant leadership that I got to see than when I had the special privilege of hearing from and meeting Dan Cathy at a Leadership Breakfast Summit in Atlanta. I remember the suspense I had on my way to this breakfast, what should I expect?
I had been a fan of Chik-fil-a since I was in middle school, and I had a chance to hear their story. I remember ambassadors of the company coming into my 6th grade class and sharing with us the culture of Chik-fil-a and how they strive to be different and excellent in everything that they do! I remember learning how they cook their food in peanut oil instead of regular oil, that moment inspired in me the creativity to set myself apart creatively by being different. I could not help but aspire for such greatness that Truett Cathy had established. To me Chik-Fila was the Walt Disney of fast food. This company inspired me to dream! I remember coming home with excitement as an adolescent and telling my mom how this man through his Faith and belief established such a great company. My mom encouraged me even more and reaffirmed what I had just heard from school, she shared that she had heard similar stories. From that day forward I remember that Chik-Fil-A found a way of consistently being our top pick for fast food throughout our years growing as a family, we fell in love with their story!
I always wanted to meet Truett Cathy one day. Now fast forward to this day of this leadership breakfast. I never got to meet Truett Cathy, because he has now transitioned to a better life. However, I have the privilege and honor ahead of me to meet his son, what a great privilege and an honor. When I got there, I saw people standing around leisurely enjoying themselves. As the time was going, people were just greeting each other and talking. When Dan Cathy the CEO of Chik-Fil-A entered the room, it was like the atmosphere shifted. He immediately started greeting people in the room. He seated people at their tables. He shook hands, he seated women at their tables. He started handing out breakfast plates to the people he seated. His attitude to serve shifted the entire atmosphere in the room. You could feel the presence change simply because this man, (not big in stature) started serving the people around him. His genuine service asserted and ushered in a certain Presence. I was blown away because I had not seen such tangible evidence of servant leadership displayed this way ever, but on this faithful morning I was exposed to servant leadership modeled on the highest level.
After receiving our food and being seated while we were eating, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. Each, person said “my name is so and so, I have this title”, “I’m the director of this, the next person said "my name is so and so, and I’m the manager of this!” All these titles! when the circle finally came around to the CEO of Chick-Fil-A to introduce himself he simple said "Hey I’m Dan Cathy and I’m in customer service"… You could probably hear a pin drop in that room. Here goes everybody trying to impress each other with all these titles and Dan Cathy the most successful person in the room simply says I’m Dan Cathy and I’m in customer service nothing more nothing less. This day was one of the most significant days, and trainings of my life on the topic of leadership. It is about time that we as leaders start getting out of ourselves. It’s not even about us. “Let the greatest among you serve”. In other words, you want to be great? Serve more people. This is greatness, because leadership = service. Tapping into the unconditional responsibility to serve people with the best value of excellence you have inside of you.
Dan Cathy went on to share with us that night. He said when a community has more than enough of what it needs and there is a neighboring community with extreme lack, that is evidence that the spiritual condition of that community doing well is just as worse than the community with lack. He shared his heart for stepping up to the plate, and filling the gaps in under resourced and serving the very least of these. He also shared about Chik-Fil-a’s legacy and business success. He said that as a business they beat out most fast-food restaurants on a 6-day work week compared to other fast-food restaurants 7-day work week. He said they ask God for dominion, and He gives it to them! He went on to share his journey and legacy to becoming such a man of great stature. He truly channels greatness.
His story started from small beginnings where his father the former CEO would make him scrape gum from underneath the tables in the Chick-Fil-A stores. These were the moments that cultivated character and servanthood in him. It is no wonder he is trusted to serve with so much, because he was able to serve in times, we would consider so insignificant, obscure, or even humiliating. You see, you can only serve at the highest level when you get out of yourself. (When you get over yourself and get out of yourself). I believe we cannot ascend greater than the very least need. We are in a time where generations are switching, and leadership is changing hands. We need leaders that will burn with passion and fire to be great! Where are those who carry the heartbeat and unquenchable desire for service? What service is embedded in your DNA? You have a fiduciary responsibility to share that gift of service with the world and in doing so it will echo throughout eternity and be recognized throughout the universe. Here is how I want to encourage you; be unquenchable in your service to humanity, because as you lead you will quench the lack of purpose in the lives of others in a way that they will never thirst again.