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18 January 2019
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If you can’t stand the heat

2 November 2015 

When I talk to groups about leadership and team-building we inevitably get around to discussing examples of good and bad leaders, blogs John Bowen. 


The worlds of politics, sport and business usually provide candidates to pick apart, but there is another area that is, perhaps, almost a perfect example.


In looking for a business environment where the leader obviously stamps their vision, not just in terms of direction, but also in style and the way in which things are done, I offer you the restaurant.


A restaurant might be led by a patron or a chef, but there is the clear vision that a team will be assembled to deliver. The look of the place, its ambience, the food, and style will all be set, and in a successful establishment there will be meticulous attention to detail.


Certainly there are some leaders in this field who have a reputation for a short fuse or bizarre behaviour, and these would not be styles that I would suggest as role models, but there are many who can stand as shining examples.


They could have exacting standards and a low tolerance of those who cannot rise to meet and deliver them. But if you look at what Jamie Oliver did with Fifteen and beyond, or what Michel Roux Jr does (the Roux foundation is remarkable in itself, but his current project transcends it) there is a clear line through the leader and their vision to delivery of their goals by a well-assembled team.


Messrs Oliver and Roux also demonstrate that you can take people who might seem ill equipped and develop them to be able to deliver the quality and consistency that you, as a leader, need to deliver your vision; It is all about the quality of the leader.


For me, the restaurant environment represents a good example of how leadership and team building can work. It is all done within the high pressure of tight timing, a very reactive environment and demanding customers and the margin between commercial success and failure is narrow, but it can be done where the vision is supported by there right processes and a team that understand their roles and how these fit within the overall scheme.


Running a restaurant, as with any organisation, is not easy, but it provides a good model. It can be at any level from diner to fine dining; the principles are the same in that there is a standard to be met and the consistent application of that standard is a crucial aspect of success.


Think about the restaurants that you might use and consider whether they are consistent across any number of visits. If they are then there is probably a good standard of leadership being applied, but if the standards vary then they are probably not.


Whatever organisation you work for you should have a clear idea of what you need to do, why it needs to be done that way, and how what you do fits into the overall scheme of delivering the organisation’s goals. Whoever is leading your team should be able to take that direction from their leader and pass it on through you. Organisations that understand this and do it well are the ones that succeed.


The restaurant example is a good one for standards at the highest level that are very exacting and demand a lot from the teams that deliver them. The adage “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” perhaps sums that up because no organisation that is trying to excel can afford passengers. 


John Bowen is an FM consultant