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When Consensus Is Wrong

September 21, 2021

Last week, Chick-fil-A announced the appointment of a new CEO. Andrew Cathy, the grandson of the late founder Truett Cathy, will take the helm on November 1st.

The news was significant for a number of reasons, but mainly because Chick-fil-A has grown to be such a prominent player in the restaurant industry. Reading the news had me reflecting on Truett’s legacy and reminded me of the short time I was able to spend with him when he was alive.

While Truett was most known for founding Chick-fil-A, I love this story of how the Winshape Foundation was born. Had it not been for one major decision, we may have never witnessed the full scope of Truett Cathy’s generosity through this organization, one that has changed thousands of lives.

Here’s how it began: Truett was invited to speak to classes at Berry College outside of Rome, Georgia, and during his visit, he and his wife Jeanette were shown a beautiful piece of property—lush green hills, a magnificent chapel, stone dormitories, a library, a gymnasium, and a classroom building. Unfortunately, it all sat empty and unused. With a cost of $2 million a year to maintain that area of campus, Berry College desperately needed to sell the property.

This piece of land was the original site of Martha Berry’s vision—a boarding school for children who had no other access to education. Mrs. Cathy said that “she felt like she was on holy ground,” and both she and Truett felt God calling them to purchase the land and use it to help others.

The next day, Truett was so excited to pitch his idea to the Chick-fil-A Executive Committee, but they weren’t nearly as excited as he was. As a wise leader, when he could see they weren’t catching his vision, he took them to see the property in person. After seeing it firsthand, the committee was even more sure it wasn’t a good idea and they discouraged him from purchasing the property.

Truett thanked the members of the Committee for their honest opinion and insight, but he decided to buy the property anyway. In doing so, Mr. and Mrs. Cathy created the WinShape Foundation, with a mission to “create experiences that transform,” and that’s exactly what they have accomplished since its inception. From summer camps to foster care to marriage retreats, WinShape works to teach truth and equip people from all walks of life. The goal of Winshape is simple: to shape winners.

Alright, this is not just a blog about a foundation. I believe there’s a principle for each of us here. Had Truett Cathy followed the advice of Chick-fil-A’s Executive Committee, WinShape might not exist today.

Truett understood this: your calling is not left to a consensus vote.

Think about this: How many dreams have died due to consensus-driven decisions?

Please understand me—I’m all for consensus, when possible. When we can align people and gain agreement, it’s always best. However, consensus decisions are often the lowest common denominator of decision-making. We water down things enough to get a group of people to agree, but we fail to accomplish what’s most important.

If you have a vision, you can’t allow the goal of consensus to keep you from your calling. As a leader, a parent, a pastor, or a business owner, you will sometimes see things differently than others around you. You have a unique position and vantage point, so you might see things others simply do not.

Consensus-driven decision-making might increase your popularity but may decrease your potential. As you compromise to please specific people in the larger group, your vision becomes less focused and less effective. It becomes more about collective agreement than lasting impact.

Here me out: Consensus is a good thing! But remember that your vision might not always make sense to everyone else in your business, church, or family. The Chick-fil-A Executive Committee was full of people whose hearts were in the right place. They loved Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family and were trying to make the best decision. However, God entrusted Truett Cathy with a special vision. I’m thankful he did what was best, not what was popular.

Is there an area in your life today that you need to press on even if it’s not popular? I hope you’ll have the courage to take the next step and trust that your God-given passion has a purpose.



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