Dare to Serve | Cheryl Bachelder

Main Theme: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others
For People Who: Need to see a fresh approach to servant-leadership

Sometimes leadership takes a bad wrap. Why? Because leadership philosophy by Type-A/Driven personalities can come across as manipulative at times. “Here is how you can get people (the followers) to do what YOU (the leader) want them to do without them knowing it.” In other words, leadership can, at times, feel like a trick. While this is not the norm when it comes to leadership, if you have avoided the topic, Dare to Serve will be a breath of fresh air for you. In fact, this will be a book you want to read multiple times, encourage your teams to read, and constantly use as a model for all aspects of your life: business, church, family, parenting, etc. Dare to Serve is for practitioners – it’s for people who are currently leading or aspire to serve in a much more inspiring way. Cheryl Bachelder summaries “Dare to Serve” leadership in this way:

This is a different kind of leader with a rare combination of traits, courageous enough to take people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey…If you become a Dare-to-Serve Leader, your legacy will be your impact on the lives of the people you lead and the outstanding results you created together. –Dare to Serve, pg. 3, 6

Brief Summary


One: Whom will we serve?

Dare to Serve follows the story of Cheryl Bachelder who became the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and was tasked with turning the business around. The question then became: What leadership approach would she and her team take? They began by first making lists of the best leaders and worst leaders the executive team worked for in the past to point them in the right direction- this is a great exercise! They decided on a servant-leadership style of leadership: that “leaders are stewards of the people and the organizations they lead” (pg. 17) and defined it simply as “serving others over self.” (pg. 18) What are the benefits from this style of leadership?

  1. People will tell you the stuff you need to know. Serving people means getting to know them, and when people know you well, they will be far more open and honest.
  2. People will be more likely to follow your bold vision. While a leader may create the vision, the follower carries out the vision. But to do so, they need to know you have their best in mind.
  3. People will actually do the stuff you need to get done without a lot of reminding. Self-centered leaders make people leader-dependent. Serving people requires that you empower people.
  4. People will perform better. Self-centered leaders create environments that are governed by threats and fear rather than inspiration of personal growth and “winning” together.
  5. People will watch out for you and protect you from yourself. Self-centered leaders create an atmosphere of overconfidence without checks and balances to remove the “blind spots” of their leadership. Servant leaders find that it is the people they serve who protect them and watch their back.

We remind ourselves that influencing and persuading others is ultimately more effective than exercising authority over them. –Dare to Serve, pg. 30

Two: What is the daring destination?

A daring destination is not the pursuit of a Dare-to-Serve leader so that the leader can take credit. On the contrary, it is to be pursued for the people and the organization. “You can’t serve the people well if you don’t have aspirations for the team to be wildly successful.” (pg. 37) And knowing the destination, like going on a fun vacation, is required knowledge for your team to know what to expect and how to pack for the journey. But while the destination itself must be daring to inspire others, it must also be achievable!

Take note: measurements matter only if you plan to act upon what you learn…Leadership is being courageous enough to measure and report performance results – to be accountable. –Dare to Serve, pg. 57

Three: Why do we do this work?

Consider this thought: “It is the leader’s responsibility to bring purpose and meaning to the work of the organization.” (pg. 62) People become self-motivated when they believe their work matters. When they create solutions to problems. When they know they bring value to something that is bigger than themselves. Providing the “Why?” inspires a team to achieve, grow, and engage the vision of the organization. And to find out the “Why?” you have to dig deep and discover your values. It is only when you define what you value that your “Why?” will become absolutely crystal clear.

Four: How will we work together?

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. -Helen Keller

Bachelder makes the point that as important as it is for you to define the “Why” and “What” of your organization – equally important is the “How?” “Some call this the culture of the organization – which is a good word for it, because it means the way we think, behave, and work together to accomplish goals.” Your principles are only valued if it is who you really are inside and how you actually live. So what are Popeyes principles?

  • We are passionate about what we do
  • We listen carefully and learn continuously
  • We are fact-based and planful
  • We coach and develop our people
  • We are personally accountable
  • We value humility

While a compelling business strategy is essential, the principles that guide how leaders accomplish that plan will determine the trajectory of the results. –Dare to Serve, pg. 97


Five: Choose to Serve

Everyone thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself. -Leo Tolstoy

The first question that must be rightly answered by a Dare-to-Serve Leader is, “How can I help?” It’s either all about YOU or it’s all about the PEOPLE. “A leader chooses to be either a Leader First or Servant First – a leader who focuses on self-ambition, or a leader whose ambition is to serve others.” (pg. 107) Often the greatest struggle a leader faces is who we are and who we wish we could be. So what “Serving Traps” does Bachelder warn against?

  1. Power: We celebrate the trappings of power. Title. Status. Money – anything that makes us feel that we are better than the rest of the people.
  2. Achievement: While achievement is an essential aspect of leadership, the critical question is: Is the achievement for you or for the people?
  3. Ambition: For Bachelder, ambition gave her focus on the future – a goal to shoot for. But the problem of ambition is at it’s root: it’s all about YOU. So Bachelder proposes using a different word: aspiration. “…a strong desire to achieve something high or great.” So we can be ambitious for ourselves, or aspire to achieve greatness together. (pg. 109-112)

Six: Be Bold and Brave

In 2009, Eric Brymer and Lindsay Oades published research on the mindset and effects of extreme sports on people who participate in them. They discovered it has a positive transformation in the courage and humility of the participants. “Apparently  pursuing activities that involve a real chance of death transforms us…increasing our courage for risk taking while humbling us as we realize we do not control the outcomes.” (pg. 116) This seems to characterize the character of a Dare-to-Serve Leader.

Seven: Have Clarity of Purpose

Before you can help others find their purpose at work, you must find your own. –Dare to Serve, pg. 129

Bachelder tells a story of a highly successful hairdresser (very interesting story), and makes the point that he is successful because he has purpose. The thought I wrote in the margin is that, while he has purpose, he also has competence. So Purpose + Competence = Success. Again, this goes back to Why we do what we do. Examine your life, choose your values, know your gifts, and put your purpose into action. “Without purpose, you will struggle to see any meaning in what you do. The job will simply be a paycheck…The people know your motive whether you know it or not.” (pg. 134)

Eight: Avoid the Spotlight

To serve others well, you must look in the mirror – to see your own shortcomings and make the requisite changes in yourself…You will have no capacity to serve others unless you can take responsibility for your own self. –Dare to Serve, pg. 145

Humility is not something that comes natural to us – every adult has an inner two-year-old. And humility is not likely to be a destination we reach, but a life-long goal we all aspire to achieve. Often leaders struggle with avoiding the spotlight. Will I miss out on the fame? The fortune? Don’t nice guys finish last? Won’t I just be everybody’s doormat? “The Dare-to-Serve Leader has the courage to take the people to a daring destination and the humility to serve them well on the journey. The dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for superior results.” (pg. 151)


I found Dare to Serve to be a wonderfully refreshing and inspiring view of leadership. Cheryl Bachelder takes you through her journey of establishing servant-leadership in a business that was failing and sees it begin to soar! Whether you are in a for-profit or non-profit organization, this is a book that will challenge you to look inwardly at the leader you have been, the leader you currently are, and the leader I believe you will aspire to become. Read it, take your team through it, and challenge yourself to put others ahead of yourself to achieve something great together.


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