5 Foundations of Extraordinary Leadership

I recently heard a CEO speak at the Atlanta HR Prayer Breakfast. Her name is Cheryl Bachelder and she is CEO at AFC Enterprises, Inc. Franchisor of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Five years ago, Cheryl stepped in and clearly demonstrated the leadership needed to turnaround this fast casual restaurant, taking them from abysmal results to 4 years of straight meets or exceeds expectation. Guest ratings are up 20% and margins have increased 200 basis points in the past 3 years.

Leadership, just saying the word may conjure up an image many of us have in our heads. What I found fascinating about her speech was her focus on the obvious (vision needed for success- 4 key initiatives) was there but where she dwelled was on the character and the competence needed to lead today. In her view, this is the calling leaders need to answer. Her strong commitment to servant leadership and the growth and development of people and the enterprise really got me thinking….Certainly, the companies we worked for in our careers and the companies we now work with constantly grapple to define what exactly leadership is and what it is not.

 What are the foundations of extraordinary leadership?

  • The vision – leaders who stand out in a crowd and achieve special results do it with the right balance of future thinking, measurement of specific initiatives, communication of the new approach and an appeal to each team members for support of the direction. They know how to instill hope even when things look bleak.
  • The belief – leaders who know themselves well, have confidence in their strategy, their people and their abilities. They are self aware enough to lead from a place of both humility and courage. They look out for their people and assume the best about them. This set of core beliefs can be felt by all team members, who know the leader has their best interests at heart.
  • The network – leaders who can build a strong cadre of internal and external support get the value of investing time in people. They recognize the need to be collaborative and get things done through and with others.
  • The communication – leaders who consistently communicate the vision, the organizational successes and opportunities, and the go forward initiatives with laser-like clarity.
  • The team – leaders who understand the success of the team is their report card. These leaders go out of their way to develop the team, set the team up for exceptional success. They take pride in the team’s victories and approach team problems from a place of “we”. They adapt their style to the different styles present on their team.

Cheryl Bachelder’s message stayed with me long after I left the prayer breakfast meeting. Extraordinary leadership tends to do that to us, it makes us want to achieve a higher level of calling for the greater good of our people and our company.