There is a philosophy about the sergeant kick-ass leadership style of management. It goes like this: don’t question me, do as I say, you are grateful to have a job, while peering over your shoulder, hard and relentless – you know who I mean.

That attitude only lasts for so long and people get tired of the humdrum and nagging, so they quit. What you have in the interim is a tired, beleaguered workforce that does not like their manager. Therefore, they do not like their jobs and for them, work is about punching in and out to earn a paycheck. They handle co-workers like the manager treats them, and the customers are treated even worse.

For Christmas, my parents sent me a Chick-Fil-A gift card, not on my normal routine, but there is one in Pasadena. It is always busy with a drive-through line winding down the street. I did the unthinkable during those cold, COVID winters in Southern California: I got out of my car and went inside…

My expectation was to enter a busy maelstrom only to be greeted by a disheartened worker who wanted more than anything to get his fifteen-minute break and get away from sergeant kick-ass. While it was busy inside, the real traffic was in the drive through.

The first person who greeted me in front of the counter was the manager. He flashed a smile bigger than that of Magic Johnson as he asked, “How are you?”

Was this a joke? Where was the roaring confusion and yelling along with the sad people who hate their jobs? Why was this nice gentleman with a southern accent taking my order with a pleasant demeaner, disrupting my fast-food stereotype?

I thought I would trick him and send him back behind the counter. “I’m having a stressful day, and I’m too hungry to wait in the drive through…so I need a chicken salad.”

“Give me one minute,” he replied.

He quietly asked the worker behind him for a chicken salad; and in almost twenty seconds, there was a vibrant green, chicken salad. Was this salad pre-made for people like me on the go. What was going on? I knew this could not be possible since fast food restaurants do not have green salads. Taken aback, I ordered a chocolate shake.

The manager said this would take a few minutes as he had to have one prepared for me. While waiting, I had to ask about his accent, and he told me he was originally from Texas. Then I asked him if he ever had Blue Bell ice cream. He said that he loved and missed it, and from time to time would have a container shipped to the store for the employees to enjoy.

This was not the sergeant kick-ass philosophy at work; in fact, it was the direct opposite. It was the positive, lead by example, greet the customer with a smile, do business in front of a desk, ask politely for something and have the team prepare it, then reward the group leadership style. During stressful times, this is a lost art form.

Which one do you think works best?

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