Mark Miller is Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A, and has spent the last two decades ensuring the growth of Chick-fil-A isn’t hindered by their supply of top talent.

Mark talks about how to create a leadership pipeline of internal and external talent, and why execution can be the difference between a stuck organization and a thriving organization.

Welcome to Episode 346 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about what Caucasian leaders can do to understand and make a difference for racial reconciliation.

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Headshot of author Mark Miller from Chick-fil-A

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Financial Peace University

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Pro Media Fire

There is a disruption happening in the church space right now and things will not go back to normal. Do you need a partner that can help you navigate the digital shift? That is exactly what Pro Media Fire is doing with their Church Growth Program.

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Win Every Day by Mark Miller

Barbarians to Bureaucrats by Lawrence M. Miller

The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard

Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud

The Secret by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller

Leaders Made Here by Mark Miller

Talent Magnet by Mark Miller

Chess Not Checkers by Mark Miller

Carey’s racial reconciliation conversation with Sam Collier on Instagram Live

CNLP 196: Bryan Carter on What Makes for Successful Succession, Navigating 300% Church Growth and the Racial Divide in America

CNLP 013: The Emptiness of Success, the Promise of Evangelism and the Multi-Ethnic Church—an Interview with Derwin Gray


1. Chick-fil-A’s Secret Sauce

Besides the invention of the chicken sandwich, Chick-fil-A is known for their hospitality. This is often what sets them apart from other fast food chains. To attain this, they employ high caliber leaders in every restaurant. So, what makes for a high caliber leader? They use the acronym SERVE:

They See the future.
They Engage and develop others.
They Reinvent continuously.
They Value results in relationships.
They Embody the values.

Mark says, “Great leaders are always serving leaders as opposed to self-serving. They are compelled by the unshakable desire to serve others.” And this is what they consider their “secret sauce.”

2. How to Create a Leadership Culture

Not only do they employ high caliber leaders, Chick-fil-A also accelerates leadership development. Before they learned to do this, they realized they needed to define the term leadership. Was it about skills or about character? Mark says they learned that it’s about both.

Peter F. Drucker said, “The quality of character won’t make a leader, but the absence flaws the entire process.” Mark says they made a strategic decision that they would select for leadership character, and train, educate, and develop on skills. He said, “Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t want candidates with skills, but if you’ve got to teach someone, it’s preferable to teach them skills as opposed to transform and reclaim character.”

Once they defined leadership, Mark said they had to teach leadership, and then allow their teams to practice it. He said, “The research on this has been clear for decades that most leaders know most of what they know about leading through the experience of leading.”

3. 4 Ways to Attract Top Talent

When Chick-fil-A looks for talent, they search for character, competence and chemistry “with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit in the mix.” And that’s been their formula for 40+ years.

Mark says they also conducted research on what attracts top talent, and they discovered three things that talent want:

  1. They want a better boss.
  2. They want a brighter future.
  3. They want to be part of a bigger vision.

Now notice that this point is titled FOUR ways to attract top talent. Mark says that finally, in order to be a part of the bigger vision, they learned that you actually have to tell that story. This can be done through having your employees serve as ambassadors, or by sharing your story on social media and your website. But when you tell your story, make sure talent can figure out that you’re going to provide a better boss, a brighter future and a bigger vision.

Quotes from Episode 346

Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead. @leadersserve Click To Tweet

More than leadership; every organization needs a leadership culture. @leadersserve Click To Tweet

The quality of character won't make a leader, but the absence flaws the entire process. - Peter F. Drucker Click To Tweet

Is it about skills or is it about character? We say leadership is about both. @leadersserve Click To Tweet

Leadership always begins with a picture of the future. @leadersserve Click To Tweet

It's far more important to do something than to do nothing because silence is deafening in a time like this. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

The moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. @SamCollier Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 346

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Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Watch Back Episodes of The Podcast on YouTube

Select episodes of this podcast are now on YouTube. Our new YouTube Channel gives you a chance to watch some episodes, not just listen. We’ll add select episodes to YouTube as time goes on.


Wish your team was more engaged at work?

Most leaders do.

According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged at work, and the most talented employees are heading off to do their own thing.

How do you attract, motivate and keep high capacity team members in a changing world?

My new online, on-demand course, The High Impact Workplace: How to Attract and Keep High Capacity Leaders In A Changing World will give you the edge you need to win the talent war for the best leaders.

Smart employers know how to respond to growing requests for more flexible work: flexible hours, the ability to work from home or a coffee shop, and more freedom and autonomy.

In the course, I give you the exact strategies you need to:

  • Attract and keep high capacity leaders who would otherwise start their own businesses.
  • Identify and leverage the currency that motivates young leaders.
  • Navigate flexible work arrangements that result in deeper productivity.
  • Master the 5 questions every great manager asks their team for deeper engagement.
  • Create workplace environments that multiple generations can thrive in.
  • Learn how to keep your company or organization relevant to the most talented leaders.

Here’s what employers are saying about The High Impact Workplace:

“Each time a unit ends, I look over my notes and think “that was exactly what I needed, the rest of the class is just a bonus.” BUT I repeat that EACH UNIT!”

“The course got me to talk with my team about things I wouldn’t have considered talking about.”

“This is exactly what I needed.”

Learn why the future workplace is the flexible workplace, and how to keep your company relevant to the next generation of leaders.

To enroll now or learn more about The High Impact Workplace, click here.

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Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

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Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Nir Eyal

When bestselling author, Nir Eyal, wrote Hooked a few years ago, it took Silicon Valley by storm. In it, Nir explains the principles that companies and leaders can use to ‘hook’ people on forming (good) habits. His most recent book, Indistractable, looks at how to get away from the things that distract us (like our phones, people and things that we don’t want to focus on) so we can focus on what matters most. In the future, becoming indistractable will become a super power.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 347.

CNLP 346: Mark Miller on Winning the Talent War, How to Develop Leaders, and How Execution Can Turn a Stuck Organization Into a Thriving Organization


  1. Scott on June 13, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    People are attending church less because its presented in mans form not gods . mans laws applies too much in church and most use gods name as a profitable business not a place of worship and fellowship. God said come as you are he didnt specify what time of day or night. Churches close doors all hours and only open when its convenient . god word is simple direct without exclusion or confusion

  2. Kevin Muilenburg on June 11, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    Great podcast. I’m especially grateful for your words and transparency about speaking out against racism.

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