Leadership In SEI And NCASEF


No society or business can function well without able leadership at all levels—and SEI and NCASEF can be no exception. It must be said, though, that we as franchisees sometimes cherish the thought that we can do without any leadership at all. We are apt to warp the traditional idea of “principles before personalities” around to such a point that there would be no “personality” in leadership whatever. This would imply rather faceless automatons trying to please everybody, regardless.

At other times we are quite as apt to demand that our leaders must be people of the most sterling judgment, morals, and inspiration—big doers, prime examples to all, and practically infallible.

Real leadership, of course, has to function in between these entirely imaginary poles of hoped-for excellence. Here, certainly, no leader is faceless and neither is any leader perfect. Fortunately, our society and system is blessed with any amount of real leadership—the active people of today and the potential leaders for tomorrow.

We have an abundance of men and women whose dedication, stability, vision, and special skills make them capable of dealing with every possible service assignment in our FOAs and National Coalition. We have only to seek these folks out and trust them to serve us.

Somewhere there is a statement to this effect: “Our leaders do not drive by mandate, they lead by example.” That is the real essence of Servant Leadership. In effect we are saying to them, “Act for us, but don’t boss us.”

A leader in service to the franchise system is therefore a man or woman who can personally put principles, plans, and policies into such dedicated and effective action that the rest of us want to back him up and help him with his job. When a leader power-drives us badly, we rebel; but when he too meekly becomes an order-taker and he exercises no judgment of his own—well, he really is not a leader at all.

Good leadership originates plans, policies, and ideas for the improvement of our franchisees, the system and its services. However, in new and important matters, it will nevertheless consult widely before taking decisions and actions. Good leadership will also remember that a fine plan or idea can come from anybody, anywhere. Even very prideful or angry people can sometimes be dead right, when the calm and the more humble are quite mistaken. Consequently, good leadership will often discard its own cherished plans for others that are better, and it will give credit to the source.

A “politico” is an individual who is forever trying to “get the people what they want.” A statesman is an individual who can carefully discriminate when, and when not, to do this. He recognizes that even large majorities, when badly disturbed or uninformed can, once in a while, be dead wrong. When such an occasional situation arises, and something very vital is at stake, it is always the duty of leadership, even when in a small minority, to take a stand against the storm using its every ability of authority and persuasion to effect a change.

Nothing, however, can be more fatal to leadership than opposition for opposition’s sake. It never can be, “Let’s have it our way or no way at all.” This sort of opposition is often powered by a visionless pride or a gripe that makes us want to block something or somebody. Then there is the opposition that casts its vote saying, “No, we don’t like it.” No real reasons are ever given. When called upon, leadership must always give its reasons, and good ones.

Another qualification for leadership is “give and take”—the ability to compromise cheerfully whenever a proper compromise can cause a situation to progress in what appears to be the right direction. We cannot, however, compromise always. Now and then it is truly necessary to stick flatfooted to one’s conviction about an issue until it is settled. These are situations for keen timing and a most careful discrimination as to which course to take.

Leadership is often called upon to face heavy and sometimes long-continued criticism. This is an acid test. There are always the constructive critics, our friends indeed. We ought never fail to give them a careful hearing. We should be willing to let them modify our opinions or change them completely. Often, too, we shall have to disagree and then stand fast without losing their friendship.

Then we have those who we like to call our “destructive” critics. They power-drive, they are “politickers,” they make accusations. Maybe they are violent, malicious. They pitch gobs of rumors, gossip and general scuttlebutt to gain their ends, and these self-appointed pachas will not let go of anything, including their position—all for the good of the system, of course!

Now comes that all-important attribute of vision. Vision is, I think, the ability to make good estimates, both for the immediate and for the more distant future. As franchisees and as a company, we shall surely suffer if we cast the whole job of planning for tomorrow onto a kind of wishful thinking and hoping for the best. The best minds of both the company and franchisee ranks needs to distinguish between wishful dreaming for a happy tomorrow and today’s use of our powers of thoughtful estimate—of the kind which we trust will bring future progress rather than unforeseen woe. Vision is therefore the very essence of prudence; a sound virtue if ever there was one. Of course we shall often miscalculate the future in whole or in part. But even so, this will be far better than to refuse to think at all.

This discussion on leadership may look, at first glance, like an attempt to stake out a specially privileged and superior type of FOA or National Coalition member. But this is not really so. I am simply recognizing that our talents vary greatly. The conductor of an orchestra is not necessarily good at finance or foresight. And it is even less likely that a fine banker could be much of a musical success. When, therefore, we talk about franchise and retail leadership, we only declare that we ought select that leadership on the basis of obtaining the best talent we can find, making sure that we land that talent, whatever it is, in the spot where it will do us the most good.

While this article was first thought of in connection with our national service leadership, it is quite possible that many of its suggestions can be useful to everyone who takes an active part in our stores. Every franchisee and manager is necessarily a leader, and the stakes are huge. The sales and profitability of the store and the well being of the employees hangs in the balance. What the franchisee/manager/leader does and says—how well he estimates sales and the needs of the guests, how well he times and makes his decisions on new products and services, how well he handles criticisms, and how well he leads his store team on by personal example, can make all the difference between profitability and growth or failure and stagnation.

Thankfully, the National Coalition, its many local FOAs and SEI are blessed with so much leadership in each and all of its levels. We only need to seek it out, encourage it to come forth and ask those leaders to serve for the good of the entire system. These are just my thoughts and I would love to hear yours!