President & COO Tony Libardi gets high praise for his unusual style of leadership

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Striving to be the best pizza franchise means putting the best leaders in place. See why Tony Libardi’s leadership style is making waves in the industry.

Tony Libardi sits in a Marco's restaurant next to a pizza on an elevated stand.

Most people shy away from conflict. Not Tony Libardi. The President & COO of Marco’s Pizza makes it clear from the start that he wants to hear your ideas, invites your input and even welcomes your challenges. Libardi believes everyone’s opinion is equally valid — and sometimes better than his.

This unusual leadership style is behind the drive to make Marco’s Pizza franchise the best pizza franchise in the nation, and it’s capturing the attention of industry experts. Libardi was featured recently in both Inc. and Business Insider for his unique — and effective — leadership.

Business Insider wrote, in part:

Tony Libardi, president and chief operating officer of Marco’s Franchising, which operates the international pizza chain Marco’s Pizza, recognizes that each member of the corporation plays a pivotal role in the company’s overarching success.

What this means is that he puts himself in the precarious position of letting his ideas be challenged by anybody in the organization. That goes for anyone else, too — it’s a cultural expectation in which working through conflict is the pathway to grow faster.

“If you need to come back a second, third, and fourth time for me to gain understanding and agreement, I welcome this. I always say that I don’t have to be right in the debate, but I have to be right in the decision. And we are both accountable for those decisions,” says Libardi.

He embraces the concept of a “productive dispute,” which he describes as letting people say what needs to be said, with respect and a positive tone in real time, and listening for understanding when others are providing feedback. “All this with an eye on driving performance and achieving [key] results. Whatever you say at the water cooler, you can say in the room,” explains Libardi.

I asked him how he guards his culture of radical transparency against an idea coming from the left field of a personal agenda. “We do this through accountability. We call actions that support personal agendas ‘below the line’ activities — like covering your tail, for example. Instead, we encourage ‘above the line’ actions: See it, own it, solve it, and do it,” explains Libardi.

Inc. columnist Marcel Schwantes, in a piece on the marks of excellent leadership, cited Libardi as one of the five best examples he’s witnessed. He wrote:

Tony Libardi, president and chief operating officer of Marco’s Franchising, which operates the international pizza chain Marco’s Pizza, actually encourages more conflict at work. Libardi holds “conflict sessions” to welcome many differing opinions around a tough issue, like underperforming stores. He says without these conflict sessions in place to hear others’ points of view, “we might have missed something awesome.” This is unlike many bosses who, within minutes of a tense meeting, will deflect responsibility to work through an issue and miss the opportunity to lead with courage and authenticity.

Learn more

We’re proud of Libardi’s leadership style and the irrefutable results: Marco’s has grown to over 900 locations nationwide and expects to cross the 1,000 milestone this year. You can learn more about our franchising opportunities by downloading our franchise report for in-depth details about our business. You can also learn more by exploring our research pages, and you can read more Marco’s Pizza franchise reviews on our blog.


If you’re dreaming of owning a pizza franchise, or even several at once, Marco’s may be the perfect place for you to thrive.

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