Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chick-fil-A President Unveils Leadership Toolkit at YMCA

Few entrepreneurs attend business seminars armed with a Slinky, a runner's baton, and an 18" pepper mill. Dan Cathy, however, arrived with all three—and a large fuzzy cow.
Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy shares his leadership
toolkit at an Alexander Family YMCA luncheon.

On June 21, Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy shared his unique approach to leadership at a luncheon at the Alexander Family YMCA. While nearly 300 of Raleigh's business leaders watched, Dan unveiled a brown leather satchel containing the secrets to his success, his personal toolkit for effective leadership.

"When I get home this evening," Dan said, "I'm going to jump on my lawnmower and cut grass for a few hours to recover from all this extroverted interaction!"

The Leadership Toolkit
A self-pronounced introvert, Dan counterbalanced his quiet nature by developing an intentional approach to leadership. To prove his point, Dan pulled a railroad spike from his brown satchel.

"Stay on track," Dan said. “Every time a Chick-fil-A customer says 'thank you,' every one of our employees always responds with 'my pleasure’—a custom my father established through persistence."

The rusty railroad spike was followed by a parade of humorous but poignant visual aids. A Slinky—admonishing leaders to "go first" into new territory; a runner's baton--reminding the audience to groom successors; a pepper mill—stressing the value of quality service; and a conductor's baton to illustrate the importance of planning, practice and skill (an appropriate analogy for Dan who has played the trumpet for nearly 50 years).

Lasting Impressions
The lunch included a debut of the Chick-fil-A cow mascot, snippets of Chick-fil-A's newest commercials, and even a video of S. Truett Cathy, Dan's 91-year old father and the company founder. But Dan's closing remarks contained what may have been the event's most memorable moments.

Producing a cell phone and a small Bible from his coat pocket, Dan said, "Don't become so enamored with technology and business that you forget what really matters. Be bold. Be strong. Be courageous."

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