On ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast, we have interviewed over 200 leading middle-market CEOs from companies across industries, and the advice and wisdom they have shared with us is unparalleled. We are excited to share some of these insights with you in a new form!
We have been so fortunate to have some truly standout female CEOs as guests, and also many of faith. Through my involvement with the organization C12, I have had the privilege to speak with Christian leaders who run their organizations with not only profits in mind but people and their wellbeing, too.
Many of the leaders of faith that I have interviewed label themselves as servant leaders, and talk about how they serve their teams, their customers, and their communities as much as or more than they talk about their own personal achievements.
Lilian Radtke, CEO of UnicPro, felt called to serve her employees, “not just know them, but love them and see how we can make a difference in their life.” She went on to elaborate, “There’s a purpose. How can we impact their lives? So the last two years, we started implementing like a one-on-one ministry and really finding out specific needs.” One need they discovered was that many of their employees dreamed of buying a home but never thought they could. “So we brought a loan officer and a realtor and they explained [the process of buying] a house … and gave [UnicPro’s employees] all the tools and resources [they needed.]”
Servant leadership obviously serves Lilian and the UnicPro team in a business sense as well, because in an industry with an extremely high turnover—around 85%—UnicPro experiences the reverse, with retention rates hovering around the 85% mark. Given Lilian’s devotion to serving her team, this is certainly not a coincidence.
People who feel supported, seen, and like they matter make companies run better. Cheryl Bachelder, Chain Restaurant Executive and Author, has even written a book called Dare to Serve, the first edition of which was written while she was leading (and turning around, really) the Popeye’s chain. “Everybody raves that the stock went from twelve to seventy-nine dollars. That’s cool. But how we did it was the story worth telling. We made our franchise owners the center of every decision we made from that day forward. We served them well. And they made a ton of money and their families thrived. It’s the proudest thing on my resume–what happened to those families was the most important accomplishment of my career.”
As Cheryl says, “[Good business] strategies never get executed unless you have fabulous, prepared, engaged people. And the fun of leadership is figuring out how to put people’s best selves to work.”
We cannot talk about servant leadership without highlighting Anne Beiler, Founder of Auntie Anne’s® Pretzels, whose whole company was born out of a desire to serve. After years of trauma, she finally got the courage to share it all with her husband. Instead of being upset, he took action to become a counselor to help other people who had suffered. To support this endeavor, Anne started the iconic Auntie Anne’s Pretzels brand. “We agreed that, okay, [counseling is] what we’ll do. So I went to market and learned how to make pretzels.” One store turned into 12, and then 35, and then hundreds and hundreds more. Along the way, Anne was supporting people and helping them find their purpose. “I simply wanted people to become more than what they thought they were,” and her husband continued to serve as a counselor. Eventually, they sold the business and bought a farm on which they built a community center to further serve and help the people around them, and Anne continues to speak and serve and lift up others.
This servant-leader concept, of course, trickles down to hiring practices. As Joan Maxwell, President of Regulator Marine, notes that it’s “about skill sets and whether there is a cultural fit.” They look for people with not only the correct skill set but a “heart of service,” which is especially important for leadership, because “they are leading and influencing people.”
I learn so much from every guest on the podcast, but hearing how leaders of faith are able to marry that with leadership and servitude always leads to deep reflection because while products and services and profits matter, people matter even more.
If you are looking for a leader who will not only serve your company well profit-wise but also people-wise, ROI can help. Book a call and let’s chat!
For more stories from top female CEOs, head to our podcast page on the website, or listen to ROI’s Into the Corner Office on your favorite podcast player.