The Leadership Recipe

Confession: I love Gordon Ramsay. Well, I don’t really know him so I guess I can’t say I love him, but I do enjoy watching his shows. Recently my wife and I have been watching Kitchen Nightmares via Netflix and I will confess that I’m hooked.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Gordon Ramsay is a chef/restauranteur/leader extraordinaire and the personality behind such shows as Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and Masterchef. His bold, in-your-face confrontational style, along with his success and expertise, would make him an intimidating person to work under (not to mention the seemingly constant stream of expletives coming out of his mouth). But these are just at the surface. There is much more going on at a deeper level.

What is overwhelmingly clear to me in this chef’s presence is not the rough speech or intimidation, but his genuine care and concern for the people he helps. He cares enough about people to show them tough love and tell them the hard truths about themselves and their businesses. As I have watched Kitchen Nightmares, I have seen Chef Gordon push and inspire everyone from restaurant owners, head chefs, cooks, waiters/waitresses, and hosts, to contribute to the success of the business. He understands that a team is only as strong as its weakest link and, top to bottom, he wants the place to win.

How does he do it? Gordon teaches leadership. When he goes into the kitchen he looks for leadership: Who is in charge? Who is giving direction? Who is ensuring the quality?
The same principle applies to the management of the restaurant. There has to be someone giving direction, inspiration, and organization to the business; and they have to do it with confidence and with passion. Without these ingredients, the business cannot succeed.

This shows that leadership principles are universal: Good communication, teamwork, passion, intelligence, common sense, and being in touch with reality (knowing your audience). All are critical to success. Good leaders fight to help their teams win (which becomes a win for them). Sometimes this comes at the expense of being popular; but this isn’t a popularity contest. We’re here to get the work done.

You can see leadership (or lack thereof) everywhere if you look for it. You might not lead restaurants or cook food, but leadership is leadership and it is necessary no matter where you go. If you want to lead well, follow the recipe.


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