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Former Yum CEO Takes Aim at ‘Toxic Leadership’


David Novak, left, formerly CEO of Yum Brands, has released a training program to help companies develop their leaders.

When David Novak was CEO of Yum Brands, he said his greatest pleasure was teaching leadership development programs reaching 4,000 people in the company until his retirement in 2016. Now he’s taking those lessons to anyone who wants them through a new program focused on helping companies develop their leaders.

“I think you can look at yourself in business as either a boss or a coach, and I see myself as a coach,” Novak said. “A coach leads people, you lead the team to victory. But the greatest joy in being a coach is helping everybody on the team reach their full potential.”

His company name is oGoLead based in Louisville, Kentucky, and its new offering is “Heartwiring and Hardwiring Your Leadership,” a digital training program that sells for $1,299 and includes 15 to 20 hours of content.

What does ‘heartwired’ mean, a term he trademarked? “Leaders need to be heartwired, they care about you, they invest in you. And then you need to be hardwired, and that’s when you put processes and discipline around what matters,” he said. “We’re focused on closing what we call the intention/action gap.”

In an interview after the program’s release, in February, Novak described what he calls toxic leadership. “It’s about people taking a top-down approach and being the boss, instead of recognizing that today leadership is in the hands of many,” he said.

“I think there’s a big problem with leadership in our country today,” with trust “at an all-time low for CEOs and institutions, and we know from Gallup that 70 percent of employees basically go to work and are not engaged.”

He said the stereotypical knocks against millennials are misplaced. “I think that millennials are the most maligned group of people possible. What’s frustrating is, they want to grow, they want to succeed, they want to learn more. Things happen faster now, and I think they’re impatient for the right reasons,” he said.

OGoLead also offers podcasts and blogs on leadership, including fascinating interviews by Novak with famous Wendy’s franchisee and former NBA star Junior Bridgeman and many others. He decided the missing piece in his offerings was material aimed at younger employees. “We know that 90 percent of supervisors wish they had more leadership training when they first took on the job,” he said. “I call it the Now Generation, millennials and aspiring leaders who want to up their game.” The new program is aimed at them.

A conversation with Novak is like a mini-lesson on leadership. “We’ve done a lot of studies on why people leave organizations, it’s very rarely for money. The two reasons why people leave is they don’t feel appreciated for what they do, and this is why recognition is so important. And the other reason is, they don’t get along with their boss, and this is why coaching is so important,” he said.

“To me, if you go look at the best restaurant managers, their teams are very loyal to them, because they feel appreciated for what they do. In underperforming restaurants, you’ve got a restaurant manager that’s a one-person band. And people don’t like it and they leave.”

Novak was co-founder, former chairman and CEO of Yum Brands, with nearly 44,000 KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurants, so he knows a thing or two about employees.

“The reason why people stay is because they’re treated well, and they’re valued and appreciated,” he said. “And by the way, that’s at every level.”


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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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