No one writes a business book about leadership to help hungry children. Leadership, we usually read, is about having a grand vision. It is about the touchdown pass. No one wants to hear about the months you spent in the summer working out in the weight room. In our quarterly culture, fast results are the only thing that matters, and we expect our CEOs to be larger than life. So when David Novak, the CEO of YUM! Brands — which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and employs over 1.4 million people worldwide — first wrote a leadership book, I expected it to be about having a big vision.
Instead, Novak’s newly released book Taking People With You is a surprisingly practical step by step guide on how to be a daily leader instead of an annual visionary. This week I had the chance to speak with him about the book and about why he felt it was so important to share his message with the world. His surprising answer for the first motivation to write his book is that all the proceeds from the book go to the United Nations World Food Programme (a CSR partner of YUM! Brands), so it may hopefully help feed some children. His second reason was because he felt it was time to share lessons from a management training program and philosophy he had already been using for 15 years to train over 4000 restaurant managers with huge success within YUM! Brands.
Here were five questions I asked him and his responses:
Q: How important is social media and digital tools to the way that you communicate and take people with you?
A: Even if you are in a huge company, you have to do everything you can to make the company smaller. I do a blog on my travels in the first person. Tell people what I see in each of our markets. I personalize it. I think relationships and having people feel like you are engaged and care is absolutely critical. If you are an “ivory tower leader” and never get out of your office, then you aren’t going to get work environment and culture you need.
Q: In the quick service restaurant industry, there is high turnover. How important is what you do to helping address that issue?
A: Great people leave for two reasons. Money is not one of the reasons. The first real reason why people leave is because they don’t get along with their boss. Second reason is where people don’t feel appreciated. It may be more true in the services business, but it is true in any business.
Q: How important is likeability to leadership and taking people with you?
A: It is hard to like somebody who doesn’t like you. You have to be a person that people want to be around. I don’t think people follow people they don’t like. They don’t buy brands they don’t like. But doesn’t mean you need to run a popularity contest. Your aim should be to get a point where people want to be around you.
Q: What is the biggest mistake that you see other leaders and CEOs of organizations making?
A: Leaders don’t tend to be self aware. They don’t know how what people really think of them. Leaders are often in a cocoon, seeing themselves in a way which may not be true. Also, a lot of times leaders will assume that people will just do their job. People want to be part of something bigger. Just because someone works for you, doesn’t mean they will just do what you want them to do. That’s niave. The real trick to getting results is involvement. You need to get your people involved.
Q: One day when you retire or leave YUM!, how will you want people to remember you?
A: I would like them to remember me as a leader who believes in them and cared enough to pass on the learnings that I was privileged enough to gain. That I was genuinely a leader.
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