A take on leadership

I’ve recently been reading on leadership and reflecting over some of the good and bad experiences I’ve had, references, tactics incorporated into my management style, and those leaders I know with good results to show. The following are some of my thoughts put into writing.


Leadership is a crucial element in making a business successful. In hospitality even more so. A good leader is to a restaurant like the fuel for a car. It is possible for a car to move without fuel. It can be pushed, rolled down hills, towed, but as it’s intended to operate a car is at its most efficient by using fuel to power its engine.

Blonde and broken car

A manager holds the power to propel its team to success. His or hers attitudes set the standards and guide the team on how to act and respond.


What (to me) are the character traits that make a good manager?




A true leader is passionate about the company and product. We often see in movies the speech that motivates the team into getting back in the game and winning the championship. That speech comes from a deep well of emotion and it can’t be reached without true love and passion for what you do.


In order to motivate your team, as a leader you must love the food you make and the experience you create for your customers. And you need to have that drive to want to constantly make it better. Passionate people have a timbre in their voices that connects with our brain in a primal, instinctive way, and that can’t be faked.




Leaders must be fair and err on the side of goodness. No person achieves its best performance when they first start a new job. Even the most experienced professionals will need some adjustment time in order to reach their maximum potential. With that in mind leaders must understand and give their team the benefit of the doubt, until proven otherwise.


It’s part of the job as a manager to “put out fires”, and probably the worst part of it too. As a result managers may find themselves trying to be pre-emptive, looking for the mistakes before they happen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but keeping that “find the wrong” mentality can be very straining on your team and set the mood to “fear” instead of “joy”.


I subscribe to the ‘two minute manager” style, that says managers must be on the look out for “good actions”. It’s a lot more work, because on the previous system you’re doing well if you don’t find anything wrong, while in this case it’s the opposite. The game is about finding your team doing something right, catching them in the act and giving them praise.


You know? For doing their jobs. Sound crazy, right? But this system sets the mood for joy and people respond well to feeling good and want more. So the good actions get replicated, and soon all your team members are “fishing” for compliments and spreading joy between themselves and your customers.




As good deeds must be rewarded. Bad actions must be… no not punished, corrected.


Being fair is more than treating people the same way. Being fair is understanding people’s background, setting the expectations and staying consistent to your actions.


To an old employee (any one really) using the glass to scoop ice is an obvious no-no, but to a new person the reason why may not be as clear.


Being fair would be calling the newbie to the side and explaining to them that what they did was wrong and why: “We appreciate you trying new ways to be quick and speed up service, but using the glass directly is unsanitary because your hand would touch the clean ice. It’s also unsafe because the glass could break, cut you and that ice well would have to emptied and cleaned before new ice could be dumped there, delaying service for all customers.” Once that expectation is set we can hold people accountable for maintaining the standard.


Like joy, fairness spreads around between your team. No one likes to punish people (or to be punished), but everyone likes to “teach”. Your older team members will emulate your fairness, creating a multi-eyed management team, helping to empower and elevate your new player’s game.


In opposition, if your style is to reprimand, all you’re getting is a team of snitches waiting for you to scold people for doing things “the wrong way”.




As a new father I’ve noticed that it’s not enough for me to be in the room while my kids are playing. Even if I’m sitting down on the floor with them, if I’m not actively engaging them, they will stop and call me to demand that I am present.


My seven months old baby knows when I’m playing with her and when I’m just with her while she’s playing.


Your team is a lot smarter than my little kids (presumably). They know when you’re on the floor, but not really there.


Being present means noticing the ambient (music, lighting, cleanliness), the flow (people at the door, people being seated, food and drinks coming in and out of expo), the team (your greeters, servers, cooks, etc.), and being ready to interact when necessary. When your team knows that you are present they will feel the confidence to elevate their game, knowing that you’ll be there to catch them if they fall.


In his book “Setting the Table” Danny Meyers talks about how generosity promotes generosity, and having that mind set is his chosen way of setting a business up for success. From experience I know that the mood I set for my team reflects the mood that is set for our customers. And its much easier to lead a happy willing team, than a sceptical and scared one.


I hope some of it resonated with you as much as it does with me.

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