20 Years of Cows (Chick-fil-A, 2015). Maybe you have seen the billboards and signs created by these renegade cows. This easily recognizable and wildly successful advertising campaign is associated with the quick-service restaurant chain, Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A, though it has been at the center of controversy in recent years, was known for its high-performance culture that is built on three C’s: character, confidence, and chemistry (Daye Scott, n.d.). Similarly, Bain and Company identified two elements—unique personality and values and behaviors—that are combined in companies with a winning culture (Rogers, Meehan, & Tanner, 2006). Bain describes a high performance or winning culture as one in which people are willing to go the extra mile to do the right things even when no one is looking (Rogers et al., 2006). Bain analyzed 200 companies and conducted 36 case studies of high performing companies and identified six common characteristics: high aspirations with a desire to win; an external focus; employees who think as owners; a bias toward action; teamwork and collaboration; and energy and passion for the work they do (Rogers et al., 2006).
Think of the companies you know with successful performance cultures. What are some of the behaviors that you observe in the employees and their actions? When you think about these organizations, is it about the actual product or more about the experience? Are you willing to pay more for the experience of a high-performance culture?
The existence of a winning or high-performance culture does not automatically equate to servant leadership. A winning performance culture based on servant leadership includes a different set of foundational values. In his work, “The Institution as Servant,” Greenleaf (2002) wrote that major institutions such as businesses, churches, universities, and governments must increase their capacity for, and performance of, servant leadership. Large-scale examples such as these would lead to a wider impact on society as a whole (Greenleaf, 2002). Below we examine three organizations serving as large-scale examples of servant leadership that are committed to improving the world. These organizations are Herman Miller, Chick-fil-A, and Southwest Airlines. Besides their core businesses of furniture, food, and aviation, respectively, all three have initiatives that reach into the community with the aim of creating a better world. All three also had servant leader role models that led the companies for decades but have now retired or they are deceased. Despite skeptics who thought servant leadership would not continue without the leadership of those men, the servant leadership culture has been sustained.
This furniture company based in Zeeland, Michigan has been recognized numerous times by Forbes, Fortune,and Working Mother magazines as a most admired company, a best-managed company, and one of the top 100 places to work. The company’s legendary leader, Max De Pree (2004) regarded Herman Miller employees as family as well as co-owners of the business. He identified three themes that are critical to “artful leadership”—integrity, relationships, and community (De Pree, 2004). De Pree (2004) defines leadership as “abandoning oneself to the strengths of others” (p. 12). He emphasizes the importance of diversity in this definition and utilizing the varied gifts of all the employees to benefit the organization. De Pree’s ideas are captured in several books, including Leadership Is an Art (2004) and Called to Serve (2001), but this tribute video, Between the Lines: The Legacy of Max DePree [Closed captioned] (Max De Pree Center, 2012), summarizes De Pree’s call to servant leadership and how he has empowered others to do the same.
S. Truett Cathy started this chicken restaurant (known for being closed on Sundays) in 1946. Dan Cathy, current President and Chief Operating Officer, tells people that he works in customer service. He says, “Regardless of my title, I actually work in Customer Service—and with more than 1,500 Chick-fil-A restaurants led by more than 60,000 team members, operators and corporate staff, I've got a lot of customers to serve!” (Cathy, n.d., para. 3). In addition to the three C’s mentioned above, the Cathy family has run their business on a concept they call “Second Mile Service” (Cathy, 2012). Based on Matthew 5:41, Cathy (2012) says that the first mile is transactional but going the second mile builds relationships. The Cathy family teaches that the second mile should be second nature, or what they call 2M2N. Dan Cathy has produced a set of videos called the Leadership Toolkit in which he uses tangible, everyday objects, such as a conductor’s baton or a railroad spike, to illustrate concepts that leaders should embrace. In this brief video, Leadership Toolkit: Side Towel[Transcript] (Cathy, 2011), Dan Cathy explains why he keeps a side towel in his toolkit as a reminder of servant leadership.
“The business of business is people” (HSMAmericas, 2008). These are the words of Southwest Airlines founder and former chairman, Herb Kelleher. Kelleher says that Southwest decided to put their internal customers (employees) first and treat them with honor, respect, and care, and protect them as well as reward them without regard for their position or title (HSMAmericas, 2008). This treatment causes a “spiritual infusion” of fun, enthusiasm, warmth, and hospitality that is transferred to external customers and causes them to return (HSMAmericas, 2008). Kelleher advocates for the establishment of employee care, service departments, and culture committees to build the culture of an organization. When hiring new employees, the company looks for people with a servant’s heart. Kelleher encourages leaders to “hire for attitude, train for skills, and look for leadership in every potential employee” (HSMAmericas, 2008). Kelleher says that focusing on the intangibles is more important not only because it is ethically right, but also because “the tangibles can always be purchased.” Southwest Airlines practices “diligent servanthood” by placing employees first, customers second, and shareholders third (HSMAmericas, 2008). The culture and community that Kelleher describes is evident in the Southwest Airlines: We’re All in This Together (Southwest Airlines, 2009) [Closed captioned] video.
Cathy, D. T. (n.d.). Our family: Dan T. Cathy. Retrieved from http://www.cathyfamily. com/dan/about.aspx
Cathy, D. T. [Dan T. Cathy]. (2011, July 12). Leadership toolkit: Side towel. [Video file]. Retrieved from
Cathy, D. T. (2012, September 5). Go farther. Go the second mile… [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.cathyfamily.com/dan/blog/go-farther-go-…
Chick-fil-A. (2015). 20 years of cows. Retrieved from https://thechickenwire.chick-fil-a.com/Inside-Chic…
Daye Scott, S. (n.d.). Truett’s family tree. QSR Magazine. Retrieved from http://www2. qsrmagazine.com/articles/features/89/truett-1.phtml
De Pree Center (2012, September 29). Between the lines: The legacy of Max De Pree [Video file]. Retrieved from
De Pree, M. (2001). Called to serve: Creating and nurturing the effective volunteer board.Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Erdmans Publishing Company.
De Pree, M. (2004). Leadership is an art. New York, NY: Currency Books.
Greenleaf, R. K. (2002). The institution as servant. In Larry C. Spears (Ed.), Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (pp. 62–103). Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
HSMAmericas. (2008). Business of business is people: Herb Kelleher . Retrieved from
Rogers, P., Meehan, P., & Tanner, S. (2006). Building a winning culture. Boston, MA: Bain and Company. Retrieved from http://www.bain.com/Images/BB_Building_winning_cul…
Southwest Airlines. [SWApprovals]. (2009, August 5). Southwest Airlines: We're all in this together [Video file]. Retrieved from
Through participation in the following activities, the candidate will:
Next week (Week 6), there will be an assignment that requires you to reflect on your experience in the course, including moments of realization, inspiration, or insight related to the course content. For the purpose of this assignment, it is suggested that you keep a journal in which you can make these connections between your practice and the course material.
Suggestions for this week’s journal entry: $10 one page
Continue work on the servant leadership guide you will submit in Week 7. The practical “how-to” guide for servant leadership is based on your weekly discussions and assignments, analysis and research, and what you learn in this course.
Your Organizational Profile due this Saturday will be included in your guide.
The following materials are required studies for this week. Complete these studies at the beginning of the week and save these weekly materials for future use.
These resources are provided to enhance your overall learning experience. For deeper understanding of the weekly concepts, review these optional resources.
Heskett, J. (2013, 01 May). Why isn’t servant leadership more prevalent? Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 1–2. Retrieved from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7207.html
Sendjaya, S., Sarros, J. C., & Santora, J. C. (2008). Defining and measuring servant leadership behavior in organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 45(2), 402–424.
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