Finger Lickin’ Leadership

By Leneita Fix November 12, 2014

It’s no surprise that Chick-fil-A is a leader in customer service and quality. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, has left a legacy that should be celebrated. Sure, they make a great chicken sandwich, but is that the only reason we love to eat there?

Recently, I got a glimpse into the heart of this company. My niece works at a local store here in Florida. She is a front line service employee. One day, while she was on a break, Truett’s son and current president, Dan Cathy, came into the store. Chick-fil-A headquarters are in Atlanta and run over 1,700 stores around the country. Yet Dan visits each location every couple of years.

According to my niece, Dan was unassuming, wearing typical manager attire: a short-sleeved shirt and tie with a pair of khakis. Noticing my niece taking her lunch with a few other employees, he walked up to the table, started clearing the trash, and asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” They were a little confused because they had never seen this man working in their store before. Then they caught a glimpse of his nametag: “Dan Cathy.” My niece whispered to her friends, “He’s the BIG boss.” Once his cover was blown, he posed for a few pictures, took a look around, and was gone in about 15 minutes.

As my niece and I talked about it later that evening, I was struck by this leader’s serving heart. There are so many leaders who talk about servant leadership. Yet when push comes to shove, many are only out to serve themselves. Yet the first thing this president of a billion-dollar company did was pick up trash for his employees. He asked how he could help them. It was a wonderful illustration of someone at the top of a ladder lowering himself below those at the bottom.

Chicken_quoteThis weekend I heard a sermon in which the pastor suggested that we should live by the question, “What can I do for you?” With that as your motto, your life will always have meaning, you will always have friends, and you can always find work. It is one of the most important things we can do to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The leaders I respect most are the ones who show a lifestyle of service. Dan Cathy could have come in with a posse, making demands and ordering everyone to “shape up.” His company is built on quality; he had every right to do that. But he chose to serve instead.

And he’s not alone. I have heard stories of Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, shining shoes in the middle of the night for leaders of another culture. I have seen Jim Burns, family ministry “guru,” walk through a conference asking if he can help anyone. Doug Franklin, founded of LeaderTreks, always takes time to talk with a struggling youth worker in need.

On the other hand, I have heard of “top” leaders in the Christian world described as “divas,” making outrageous demands of those around them. According to my husband, “Any follower of Jesus should never be associated with the word diva.”

Leaders never outgrow service. They ask what those around them need. Service should be more than a pleasant thought on a blog post you’ll soon forget. Instead, we should take our cues from Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A:

You’ll never be too famous to take out the trash.


CC Image courtesy Robert Du Bois on Flickr.

About the Author

Leneita Fix

Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace  to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each…  Read More