StudyBoss » Chick-fil-A » Chick-Fil-A Character Analysis Essay

Chick-Fil-A Character Analysis Essay

Leadership. A trait, it has been said, that an individual is born with and cannot be acquired, denoting that it is in the gene pool of an individual’s family ancestry. Others contend that leadership is an acquired talent, one that can be instilled within an individual through training, modeling and mentoring. While there is validity to both schools of thought, there remains a trait of leadership that without it the leader will ultimately miss the experience true fulfillment.

That trait, integrity of character. Integrity of character embodies the Golden Rule, because it represents every gift of morality, value, and ethics we would hope to receive from others” (Riege, 2010). While it can be ascertained from the teachings of talent developer and author Marcus Buckingham and world renowned speaker and author John Maxwell that leadership skills are teachable, character traits are ingrained. Integrity of character is the true measure of how you bring the core of your life to the surface for you, and those who choose to follow you (Riege, 2010).

There are a few leaders who imbibe integrity of character in the marketplace and S. Truett Cathy is quintessentially one of them. A devout Baptist, Sunday School Teacher, husband, father and visionary, Cathy determined that the Biblical principles instilled in him were the basis of success in family life, community involvement, and leadership in business. It can be said that the phrase Servant Leader, coined by Robert K. Greenleaf, is how Cathy lived his entire life.

Born in Atlanta, GA in 1921, Samuel Truett Cathy developed a philosophy early in life, for which he credited his life’s success, “work hard and place my trust in God” (Starrs, 2014). His entrepreneurial spirit was sparked during the Great Depression, where his father, an insurance salesman, suffered both financially and emotionally (Starrs, 2014). Cathy determined to help his family by selling Coca-Cola, operating a paper route, and performing odd jobs (Starrs, 2014).

Reflecting on this Cathy said “I’ve experienced poverty and plenty, and there’s a lesson to be learned when you’re brought up in poverty” (Brainy Quotes, n. d. ). Truett believed in service not only to his family and community, but his country. He joined the U. S. Army and after being discharge 1946, saw an opportunity to not only serve in his community but in the spirit of an entrepreneur, start a business. Recognizing that the workers at the local Ford plant needed a place to dine, Cathy and his brother Ben opened the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Georgia (Starrs, 2014).

Observing people sandwiching a piece of chicken between a roll, the concept for Chick-fil-A was born (Starrs, 2014). A visionary, Cathy discerned a change in “the growth of America’s suburbs, in particular the indoor shopping malls away from the centers of cities and small towns,” and in 1967 expanded the Chick-fil-A chain to capitalize on this phenomena. Forever the servant leader, Cathy emphasized to his employees that “We should be about more than just selling chicken: we should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve” (Brainy Quotes, n. . ) Adhering to the moral and ethical principles Cathy based in life on, he resolved not to open his restaurants on Sundays, although it was estimated to cost the company billions of dollars in revenue, because he believed in honoring the Christian Sabbath (Oswald, 2014). Cathy stated that “I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities” (Brainy Quotes, n. d. ).

Furthermore, he declined to take the company public as he refused to have that decision reversed for the sake of profits to shareholders or have the company’s focus on the Biblical principle of giving through charitable work through Chick-fil-A’s sponsoring of foster homes and homes for abused and neglected children, and his WinShap college scholarship program interfered with (Oswald, 2014). Dee Ann Turner in her book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and Compelling Culture, encapsulates the “secret sauce of Chick-fil

A’s highly effective business model” as being the corporate culture its founder, Truett Cathy fostered. “Culture is the soul of an organization” and be it consciously or subconsciously leaders model and mold that culture into their organization (Kruse, 2015). Turner asserts that “conceptual pillars such as purpose, mission and values will map the way to a compelling culture” but, it is the people in the organization who will live the culture out (Kruse, 2015). At Chick-fil-A, Turner and others enroll people in its culture in three key ways:

1. Recruit for culture, their talent selection process focuses on three C’s: character, competency, and chemistry; 2. Nurture talent by telling the truth, understanding that investing in the people already on your team is a vital piece of cultivating strong culture; and 3. Engage guests in your culture, Chick-fil-A employees have helped Chickfil-A become just as known for its “Second-Mile Service” and delivering the signature response of “It’s my pleasure” as it is for delicious chicken (Kruse, 2015). The accomplishments of this servant leader in his 65-years in business are numerous.

At the time of his death in 2014, “there were more than 1,800 Chick-filA restaurants in 40 states and Washington, D. C. ” (Cathy, n. d. ). During his tenure, Cathy “led Chick-fil-A on an unparalleled record of 47 consecutive years of annual sales increases” with system-wide sales hit $5 billion in 2013, outpacing KFC, making it the country’s largest quick-service chicken chain (Forbes, n. d. ). Cathy was recognized for his humanitarianism, philanthropy and business acumen becoming a Georgia Trustees Inductee in 2013.

He was the recipient of: The 2012 Fayette County, GA Chamber of Commerce Dream Builder Award; 2011 Children’s Champion Hunger Award; the 2010 World Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award; Salute to Greatness Martin Luther King Jr. Award in 2009; the 2008 William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership; the Paul M. Kuck Legacy Award and the President’s Call to Service Award in 2008; The Cecil B. Day Ethics Award in 2007 and the Tom Landry Excellence of Character Award in the same c; the Norman Vincent & Ruth Stafford Peale Humanitarian Award in 2003; Catalyst Lifetime Achievement Award from Injoy/John Maxwell and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame-Chairman’s Award in 2003; the Ernst & Young- Entrepreneur of the Year—Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000; and Horatio Alger Award-Horatio Alger Association, Washington, D. C. in 1989 (Cathy, n. d. ).

I would dare to say the greatest accomplishments of this servant leader is that of the legacy he left behind in instilling into his children the same Biblical principles that carried him throughout his life and the countless others his faith, leadership and generosity have touched.

However, Cathy’s ethical and moral stance didn’t leave him without critics. In 2012, Chick-Fil-A weathered a firestorm of criticism when Truett’s eldest son and successor Dan Cathy spoke on the issue of gay marriage in an interview with The Baptist Press. Dan was quoted as stating that “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” (Fellowship of the Minds, 2014). Continuing with the interview Dan Cathy stated that “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives and we give God thanks for that. (Fellowship of the Minds, 2014).

Cathy’s stance fostered a backlash from the gay and lesbian rights groups and supporters ranging from students at 10 U. S. universities who circulated petitions opposing the opening of new Chick-fil-A franchises on their campuses and lobbying for the removal of existing restaurants, to the Jim Henson Company’s withdrawing its partnership with Chick-fil-A to supply toys for the chain’s children’s meals, to a letter from the Mayor of Boston, Thomas M. Menino to Dan Cathy urging the company to reconsider its plans to open an outlet in Boston (Mikkelson, 2012).

Yet, true to the Biblical principles and character instilled by his father, Dan Cathy simply responded “guilty as charged” (Mikkelson, 2012). John Maxwell (2013), stated that there are 5-levels of leadership in an organization: 1positional leadership where an individual has been promoted into a position and subordinates follow because they “have to;” 2-permission level, in this position a leader’s subordinate follow because they desire to, as the leader has established a relationship with their team and are “liked” by them; 3production level, where leaders are followed because they get results.

Their behavior is modeled, they produce by example. Leaders “do” or have done what they expect of the team member; 4-people development level. Leaders recognize that their team members are the most appreciable asset in the organization, hence, recruitment is the 1st point of developing the right team. Leaders know exactly what characteristics and skills are needed in a person that will be the right “fit” for the success of the organization; and 5-The Pinnacle level, respect. People follow this leader because of “who” they are and what they have accomplished (n. . ).

Without a doubt it can be said of S. Truett Cathy that he reached the pinnacle level of leadership. Maintaining integrity of character regardless of public pressure or potential profits, modeling the culture he desired to imbibe into his organization, recognizing and rewarding the talent of his employees and serving his community and others through philanthropy, honoring God and His principles for life, in all his endeavors, leaving a legacy that lives beyond him makes S. Truett Cathy the epitome of a true servant leader.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.