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WHEN MY HUSBAND AND I went to my daughter’s thirdgrade parent-teacher conference, the teacher looked at us and said rather sternly, “I don’t know what Tracy is going to be when she grows up, but she is going to be in charge of it.” At that moment, I had my first glimpse of what my mother’s life must have been like. She raised four children and we all ended up in charge of something.
I’ve come to believe that our lives each have a theme, although sometimes it takes a long time to figure it out. At this point, I think it is safe to say that my life theme is leadership.
In the first chapter of my life, the theme was expressed by the leaders in my family—my grandparents and parents. I was blessed with family leaders who raised us in a safe, loving home, providing a good education, strong faith, and moral values. My father modeled the business leadership traits of competence and character in his career at National Semiconductor Corporation.
In the second chapter of my life, the theme was learning leadership—while serving as president of my campus sorority, Sigma Kappa, gaining my business school degrees at Indiana University, and apprenticing with strong leaders in brand management at Procter & Gamble and Gillette. I became fascinated with watching leaders, reading about leaders, and reflecting on leadership. I became a student of leadership.
The third chapter was about being a leader in large companies. I became a vice president at the young age of thirty-two and led marketing and product development teams at Nabisco and Domino’s Pizza over the next dozen or so years. My career grand finale was supposed to be as president of KFC restaurants, a division of Yum! Brands. But instead, I learned some tough lessons—battling a round with breast cancer and an unsuccessful term as a restaurant company president. I experienced trials in leadership.
Yet another chapter spans the years of my marriage, from 1981 to the present day. My husband, Chris, and I are co-leaders of our family, raising three daughters with no manual other than the Bible. We’ve been imperfect parents, but we have loved the responsibility of leading our daughters to faith and to their own life theme.
As this book tells the story, the most recent chapter began when I was asked by the board of directors of Popeyes to lead a turnaround of this brand, famous for its Louisiana culinary heritage. This has been the best leadership opportunity of my life. With a supportive board, a capable team, a distinctive brand, and more than three hundred franchise owners invested for the long haul, we have been able to deliver a remarkable set of results. By doing so, we have established the business case for Dare-to-Serve Leadership.
I look forward to spending the rest of my days inspiring purpose-driven leaders who exhibit character and competence in all aspects of their lives. This is the calling of my life and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve.