Top 10 Leadership Lessons from 100+ Chick-fil-A Operators (Pt.II)

Life is bigger than selling chicken.

It's not uncommon to see a news article about Chick-fil-A come across your feed these days. With record growth and a refreshing commitment to people, their stores 'generate more revenue per location' than any other fast food chain in the US, and they're only open six days a week.

But why is that? Why exactly has Truett Cathy's legacy to serve others resonated with so many?

"Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else – our time, our love, our resources."
-- Truett Cathy (1921-2014)

During my time with Wildsparq, I've had the opportunity to learn the answer first-hand. Last month, we shared an article entitled Top 10 Leadership Lessons from 100+ Chick-fil-a Operators (Pt. I), highlighting the work of Operators who are pouring their lives into their staff. Therein lies the answer -- Chick-fil-A Operators are fully devoted to their staff, who in turn, are fully devoted to their customers.

Consider for a moment three points from a Gallup Research study on the Top 12 Elements of Great Management.

  • My supervisor seems to care about me as a person
  • There is someone at work who cares about my development
  • Over the last year, I've had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Right now, hundreds of Chick-fil-A Operators are meeting the needs of these people highlighted above. Many of them have partnered with our team at Wildsparq to provide a consistent approach to growth and development, all the while 'donating food to those in needsending team members to college, and creatively engaging their communities'.

No doubt, leaders from any organization of any size could apply these tips below. Thank you to the Operators who've taught me these lessons.

1) They Desire the Best for their People: This past week I spoke with Operator Edmond Long at the La Palmera Mall location. First and foremost he shared 'We are a leader development organization, and while I want to create remarkable food, I also want to create remarkable people'.

"We are a leader development organization." 

2) They've Never Arrived: Operators and their teams know they're not finished learning and growing. Kirk Thompson and Yanni Iliadis (Exec. Director of Leadership) at CFA Pflugerville display this quality! Each interaction with them shows their curiosity for improvement and constant hunger to learn.

3) They Tell a Great Story: I'll let this video by Lauren Plain at Chick-fil-A Aspen Grove speak for itself!

"One reason I love working at Chick-fil-A is the people I work with. It's great to come to work each day and talk to these amazing people" 

4) They Give Others Ownership: Operators are constantly passing along ownership within their organization, giving others the opportunity to step up to the plate and lead. With that comes the opportunity for failure, but that too is viewed as an invaluable step in the growth process.

5) They Hire Growth-Minded Leaders: Brad Nichols, at CFA Chambers Town Center, has partnered with Wildsparq's parent company, Fireseeds Recruiting, to recruit what Fireseeds calls 'a multiplying leader - someone that has high character, drive, and a desire to invest in building people.' Brad knows the first-hand importance of finding great leaders to join his team. If you can build a great team, you can build a great business.

6) They Understand Humans are Messy: ...and they're not afraid to get their hands dirty. Farming is messy. So is developing leaders. Both bear fruit. Zach Thomas of CFA Rockmart and author of the book Leader Farming reinforces the agricultural analogy of leadership and growth.

7) They Consistently Create and Reinforce Culture: One Operator who has been a significant encouragement to me is Rick Combs at CFA Culpeper Colonnade. Rick has made every effort to replicate Chick-fil-A's core values with his team and intentionally invest in their growth. He knows the lessons his young leaders are learning now are invaluable to their future.

8) They Diligently Create the Outcomes they Desire: Operator Chris Eckert at CFA Garners Ferry Road has a clear vision for where he wants to take his business. Each day, he takes the next best step to get there. Great leaders think big, start small, and go deep.

9) They Give Back: Check out what CFA Newport Pavilion and Operator Britton Smith did recently for their community with an event called "Stuff the Bus". For every three items people donated to Stuff the Bus, they got a free entree at his store!

10) They Know Money is not the Motive: After a 15-year career serving in Corporate America, Operator Matt Williams at CFA Voorhees made the leap to Chick-fil-A. Matt is a contagious leader. Talk with him for five minutes about servant leadership and you'll leave fired up! His primary focus is to serve others. If he does that, he knows the financial side of the business will take care of itself.

Chick-fil-A knows exactly what they are doing! Combine great leadership with a great chicken sandwich and you can expect great results.

“Some of Cathy's most significant business decisions were made with employees in mind.” 


Are you an Operator? Click Here To Learn more about WildSparq: The Leader Development strategy designed to help you invest in your Directors and Managers growth as leaders. Or Schedule a Free Demo Here.

To learn more about how FireSeeds helps recruit, develop, and retain multiplying leaders, please visit http://fireseeds.com

About the Author: Josh Etress is the Director of Business Development at WildSparq, located in Birmingham, AL, and is committed to helping companies and organizations Enhance Culture and Multiply Leaders. You can contact Josh directly at josh@wildsparq.com