Finding Your Leadership Balance

What mindset can help you not only organize your roles, but offer all of them the best you can give?


Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, talks about the challenge of integrating the different roles in her life while continuing to focus on personal purpose. Integrating your internal values, personal direction and what you have learned from life experiences—and considering these aspects in light of "why you do what you do"—will help you with the difficult choices regarding life balance.

Watch as Cheryl unveils how she uses personal experiences in her work life and work experiences in her personal life.

Interviewer: Cheryl, your CEO role here is a great role, but it's one of many roles that you have. I don't necessarily want to ask you the balance question, but how do you balance everything with your role as a mom, as a wife, and all the things that you have going on in your life outside of Popeyes.

Cheryl: I have been married 33 years this year. We're the parents of three grown girls. I have three siblings, my mother lives with me, and I have this job so my life is complex. In fact, I often joke that I believe in intelligent design but I'm just not sure I'm it. So I think when you're given gifts in life, you have to figure out how to integrate your life with the gifts you've been given.

So I do that by this thing called personal purpose, which is figuring out what gifts I've been given, what values I have, what life experiences have shaped me and then decide how to focus that to one thing that I do, not 18 things that I do as a living. So for me, you've heard me say at work that I develop leaders for a living. Well to be honest, that's how I approach parenting. I'm developing three future leaders. Leaders of their home, leaders of their church, leaders of their community, leaders of their workplace, wherever they lead. Martin Luther King said we're all leaders it's just a question of where we will serve.

And so when I got to that point of organizing my life around one purpose statement, a lot of the conflict moved aside. There is a lot of conflict in being a working parent. I never lie to anybody about that. The day that you're either in the board meeting or at the school play, there's nothing fun about that decision and the stress that it causes in your daily life. But if you know why you're doing the things that you do and what you believe, it helps wrestle through those difficult choices that you have to make.

As the saying goes, there will be trials in your life. There will be difficult choices. No one promised you a rose garden. So the question is how will you navigate the trials and difficult decisions in a way that you can say on your last day, "I did the right thing by the gifts and purpose I've been given. And that's all I can do."

Interviewer: And do these come in seasons? Like work is here and then how do you approach the seasons of life and business?

Cheryl: Well, one of the things I often talk to women about is I've taken two breaks from my career. And the search firms and the business schools tell you, "You leave the workforce you're over. There's no chance you could ever come back." So women lean in or stay in or don't go. There are lots of rules about how you're supposed to play business.

And I have played it by my own rules. When my children were teenagers I couldn't do it all. There was no way to keep them on track and keep me on track and my husband and all this stuff. So I think being realistic about that. I took three breaks from work. One search firm called them landing pads. I don't know where they got that idea. But they were pauses. They were pause buttons.

And on reflection, in the pause buttons where I allowed my life to get back in sync around my core purpose and beliefs, when I came back into the workplace it was with better focus on the purpose, better clarity about what I believed, and therefore more impact. Then I had prior to that. So I often ask women and men kind of un-leash yourself from conventional career thinking so that at any given time you feel reconciled in what you're supposed to be doing and less worried about what others think and whether you're on track. That sorts itself out over the long run.

Cheryl Bachelder

Cheryl A. Bachelder is the former CEO Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. and author of Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. She is known for her crisp strategic thinking, franchisee-focused approach, superior ...

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