Dare to Serve

March 16th, 2015 | Leadership
Dare to Serve

Note from Bob:  You are going to want to buy this book!  About 10 days ago my friend Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes sent me an advance copy of her new book “Dare To Serve” which became available today!  I devoured it!  I have read many great books on Servant Leadership – but Cheryl’s book “Dare to Serve” is now at the top of my list of Servant Leadership books.

Would you like to know why?

First may I tell you about Cheryl?

When Cheryl was named CEO of Popeyes in the fall of 2007, guest visits had been declining for years, restaurant sales and profit trends were negative, and the company stock price had dropped from $34 in 2002 to $13.  The brand was stagnant, and relations between the company and its franchise owners were strained.

By 2014, average restaurant sales were up 25 percent, and profits were up 40 percent.  Popeyes’ market share had grown from 14 percent to 21 percent, and stock price was over $40.  (Friday – March 13, 2015 closing price was $60.40)  The franchisees were so pleased with the turnaround that they began reinvesting in the brand, rapidly remodeling restaurants, and building new units around the world.

The difference maker, Cheryl says, was a conscious decision to lead in a new way!  She and her team created a workplace where people were treated with respect and dignity yet challenged to perform at the highest level. Silos and self were set aside in favor of collaboration and team play. And the results were measured with rigor and discipline.

Servant Leadership is sometimes derided as soft or ineffective, but “Dare to Serve” shows that it’s actually challenging and tough minded – a daring path.

Second may I tell you why I love “Dare to Serve?”

Let me begin with an excerpt from the “Introduction.”

The Dare-To-Serve Leader

At the beginning of a Broadway show, the lights dim, the music plays and the audience waits for the spotlight to hit the stage.  When the main actor appears, the story begins.

So it is with leadership.  When you become a leader, people wait for you to step into the spotlight on center stage.  All eyes are fixed on you – waiting to see who you are, what you will say, and what you will do.  After all, you are the leader.  

What if the spotlight appeared on stage, and you were not in it?  What would happen then?

The people would be confused.  They would wonder where you were.  They would think that you didn’t understand your role.

Until they realized what you were doing.

You are a different kind of leader.  Not seeking the spotlight.

In fact, you have walked off the stage to find the light crew.

You will shift the focus of the spotlight – to the people you have been asked to lead.

You will lead the people to daring destinations – far beyond their imagination.

You will focus intensely on serving them well on the journey.

You will help them discover meaning in their work and principles in their actions.

You will dare to serve.

My message is simple, but unconventional.  If you move yourself out of the spotlight and dare to serve others, you will deliver superior performance results.  

Most haven’t heard this before.  Many will be skeptical, even confused.

What about you?

Perhaps you think selfless service is for charitable causes and saints.  Perhaps you think serving is weak and cowardly, not bold and courageous.  Perhaps you think, “I’ve never met this kind of leader and doubt that they exists.” 

It’s time to reconsider your assumptions.

This is a different kind of leader with a rare combination of traits, courageous enough to take the people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve daring others on the journey.  The dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for superior performance.

This is a Dare-To-Serve Leader.

The first half of the book is the story of the turnaround of Popeyes – a real-world example of how one leadership team dared to serve the people well – and producing industry-leading results.

The second half of the book is about how you can become a Dare-To-Serve Leader.  It offers thoughts and reflections (questions) to guide you in becoming the most effective leader you can be.

Cheryl loves to ask questions!  So it comes as no surprise to me that her book is filled with 40 “Dare to Serve Reflections” – each of which is a carefully crafted question.  Here are just a sampling of a few of my favorites:

5.  How do you gain meaningful feedback from those you serve?

9.  What steps have you taken to create a work environment that brings out the best performance from your team?

11.  How well do you know the people who work for you?  Do you know the three or four events of their lives that have shaped who they are today?

13.  Most leaders can tell you the weaknesses of their team members. But can you cite the strengths and talents of your team?  Are you accessing their very best capability?

17.  Are you and your team listening carefully and learning continuously from the people you serve?

19.  What is your coaching routine?  Do you have a specific and thoughtful development plan for each of your team members?

24.  How do you use the power that comes with your position:  for personal gain or for serving the people and the enterprise?

25.  What is the most important achievement of your life?  Was the win for you – or for the people on your team?

26.  Do you have big ambitions for yourself or big aspirations for the people on your team?

30.  What is your daring aspiration for your team that is beyond what they know how to accomplish today?

39.  Think of a humble leader who you deeply admire.  What qualities do you see in this person that you want to be evident in your leadership?

(Excerpted with permission from the book, Dare to Serve, by Cheryl Bachelder, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015 www.bkconnection.com)

Special Invitation:  On March 23rd at 12 p.m. Eastern Time (11 am Central, 10 am Mountain, 9 am Pacific) you are invited to a “Dare to Serve Webinar” event with Cheryl where she be sharing about her book and answering questions live. You can sign up “HERE” 



Cheryl Bachelder


Cheryl Bachelder is the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., a multibillion-dollar chain of more than 2200 restaurants around the world.  She was recently named by CNBC’s Jim Cramer as one of his “21 Bankable CEOs” for 2014.  You can follow Cheryl on her blog: Serving Performs .

Click “HERE” to purchase “Dare to Serve.”


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