Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr: Servant Leadership Personified

Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr: Servant Leadership Personified


“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”

-Rabindranath Tagore

Ian Fuhr the founder of Sorbet and serial entrepreneur is the embodiment of servant leadership. Sorbets’ unique culture, their sustained and growing success in a very competitive market, and their very low staff turn-over compared to industry standards provide the proof that the consistent application of the principle of servant leadership is a powerful catalyst for success.

Language cues can often give marginal insight into the complexity that is organisational culture: Sorbet staff are referred to as citizens (not as staff) and clients are called guests (not clients).

“Leaders and managers are generally under the impression that they must motivate. That is impossible. Leaders and managers can only inspire people to motivate themselves.”

Related: 5 Business Lessons From Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr

To remain true to the culture the Sorbet leadership are often reminded to ask themselves what the purpose is of what they are doing. Ian firmly believes that our higher purpose on this planet is to give. He quickly points out that you might feel betrayed when on occasions people that you have given to treat you badly and act disrespectfully, yet he constantly encourages the Sorbet “citizens” to keep extending their arms in the act of giving and find joy in service to others.

Truly being a giver attracts “givers” to you. There are over 300 000 “guests” on the Sorbet loyalty program that reciprocate the servant leadership mindset of the “Sorbet citizens”.

Within this established and rich culture when you focus on taking instead of giving you are referred to as an “I specialist”.


“Train people so well that they can leave you. Treat them so well that they don’t.” – Richard Branson.

“Barber Cheeze” a citizen working at Sorbet Man Menlyn Maine facing the very challenging task of trimming my beard could tell me who Ian Fuhr was and how he was inspired by him. He could also relay to me with great enthusiasm what his personal future vision was and how he aims to improve his skills to be able to grow in the organisation and make his future plans a reality.

At the same time, he managed to pay special attention to me as his “guest” and provided a service that I have never experienced at any other barber shop. Barber Cheeze like all citizens went through Ians’ induction training which has nothing to do with technical skills training but all to do with culture, service to others, and the “Sorbet way”. Even the technical skills training is underpinned by the Sorbet servant leadership values.

Related: How Ian Fuhr Built Sorbet – The Beautiful Business Empire

I want to personally thank Barber Cheeze for making my research and preparation for this interview a very pleasant experience. He provides at least partial proof that the Sorbet culture exists not only in words but in action. He provides proof that the Sorbet training program makes the citizens better givers and that Ian inspires them to do things that they never thought they were capable of. Over two and a half thousand citizens have gone through Ian’s’ induction training.

Ian’s’ own words – “I will continue doing the induction training until I drop” – reflects his commitment to help facilitate the creation of more and more servant leaders that will sustain this wonderful culture.

“The harder you work the harder it is to surrender” – Vince Lombardi

Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

Ian works tirelessly to expand the Sorbet brand and its culture. This industry leading brand has recently opened four stores in London, England and aim to expand on its service offering even further soon.

Leaders give new perspective, leaders create energy. I left Sorbets’ head office feeling energised and in a contemplative mood, reflecting on giving, culture, leadership, and above all being a servant.