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Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder

Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 220 pages. 2018

This book, by the former CEO of Popeyes, is about servant leadership, which Cheryl Bachelder refers to as Dare-to-Serve leadership. It’s one of the best books on leadership that I read in 2018.
The author tells us that if you move yourself out of the spotlight and dare to serve others, you will deliver superior performance results. She describes the “Dare to Serve Leader” as one who possesses a rare combination of traits, courageous enough to take the people to a daring destination yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey. She tells us that the dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for superior performance.
In the first half of the book she tells the story of the turnaround of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., a publicly traded global restaurant chain she led. Popeyes restaurants experienced eight years of growth. Average restaurant sales climbed by 45 percent. Market share grew from 14 to 24 percent. The profitability of Popeyes restaurants doubled in terms of real dollars, with restaurant profit margins up from 18 to 23 percent. The Popeyes story provides a real-world example of how one leadership team dared to serve the people well—and produced 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 to guide you in becoming the most effective leader you can be. Throughout the book she includes Dare-to-Serve Reflections to help you think about the leadership role you are in today and the best way to influence and steward the people entrusted to your care.
She tells us that the most difficult thing she has to say to leaders is that you will have to take yourself out of the spotlight. Instead, you will find a way to get that spotlight to shine on others.
Here is a summary of the framework she used to lead a successful transformation at Popeyes.

  • Listen first
  • Articulate a purpose: “Why”
  • Choose road map strategies: “What”
  • Determine principles: “How”
  • Select and develop leaders: “Who”
  • Communicate consistently and frequently
  • Track results monthly, quarterly, annually

The author shares benefits to you of becoming a Dare-to-Serve leader as well as certain mind-sets that will trip you up on a regular basis if you and your team commit to becoming Dare-to-Serve leaders. The book includes helpful Dare-to-Serve Reflection Questions.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read this excellent book, which I recommend all leaders read. Below are 20 of the best quotes that I want to share with you:

  1. When you choose to humbly serve others and courageously lead them to daring destinations, the team will give you their very best performance. And the spotlight will be found shining on the remarkable results of the organization as a whole.
  2. Here’s a tough question. Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve? It helps.
  3. If you choose to be a Dare-to-Serve leader, you’ll have one very big obstacle to overcome. Yourself. It is easy to say that you want to serve others well, but it is much harder to do so in daily life.
  4. The Dare-to-Serve leader must have the courage to focus on and solve the hard things facing the organization.
  5. What can a leader do to drive engagement? Help people find purpose and meaning at work. Inspire them to contribute their very best work. Care about them, so that they want to care about the enterprise.
  6. Servant leadership simply means service above self.
  7. Superior results are the measure of how well we serve. Serving and performing go hand in hand.
  8. Dare-to-Serve leaders help their followers discover their personal purpose. This builds intentionality and engagement and leads to positive outcomes, including superior results.
  9. The Dare-to-Serve leader understands the critical importance of personal accountability in reaching superior performance.
  10. Humble leaders inspire, but self-centered leaders squash the spirit of the people. Dare-to-Serve leaders aspire to be more humble.
  11. The leader must have both—the courage to take the people to a daring destination and the humility to selflessly serve others on the journey. This dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for superior performance.
  12. The Dare-to-Serve leader has a unique combination of traits—enough courage to take the team to a daring destination and enough humility to serve the people well on the journey. Together, these traits foster the environment for superior performance.
  13. Dare-to-Serve leadership is transformative for the leader and the followers. In taking a risk, the leader and the people stretch and grow, and when they are successful, they experience new confidence and new commitment to the team.
  14. Dare-to-Serve leaders see each individual as a unique and valuable human being, worthy of dignity. And they treat them accordingly.
  15. The point of purpose is to determine how you will serve others. If you don’t plan to serve, you don’t need a purpose. If you do choose to serve, a personal purpose will determine the focus of your leadership.
  16. To serve others at work, we need to put more thought into the values that govern our day.
  17. To know why you work, you must discover your unique strengths and then spend the rest of your working days offering those strengths to your employer. That is what you are designed to do.
  18. A leader without a personal purpose is leading the people on a pointless, meaningless journey. And that’s exactly the environment your leadership creates. A meaningless journey.
  19. My observation is that Dare-to-Serve leaders consciously decide to act on these three core beliefs: human dignity, personal responsibility, and humility. They become so convinced about these beliefs that when they are violated, the leader becomes distressed and quickly adjusts his or her behavior.
  20. Your leadership actions will change lives for the better, leave them unchanged, or, regrettably, leave them worse off.