Much has been written and talked about on the topic of leadership and I’ve always found myself fascinated by the subject. I love delving into the philosophy of history’s great leaders and reading their stories, trying to tap into that magical essence that allowed them to get their people to overcome great obstacles and work towards a common goal.
Leaders like Shackleton, Dick Winters of Band of Brothers fame, Lewis and Clark, Churchill, Lincoln, Lombardi and many others, offer tremendous examples of leadership under the most extreme circumstances.
What Makes a Leader?Of course, people from my personal life – siblings and parents, past coaches, even some of my debaucherous friends have provided the most tangible examples of leadership, and they’re the ones who have most shaped me over the years and continue to do so.
After reflecting on the great leaders I’ve both read about and known personally, I’ve realized that despite their different backgrounds and varied makeup, they seem to share many of the same qualities.
And no quality is seemingly more prevalent, or less simple than this:
they provide and care for the people they lead and do so in a manner that borders on servitude.
I read somewhere that in between defining reality and saying thank you, the great leader is in essence, a servant, and that’s always resonated with me. Being of service to those one leads requires a steady head, for certain, but it also involves a fully engaged heart.
Men like Shackleton and Winters didn’t just give orders and dole out discipline, they cared for those under them and offered guidance, fairness and empathy.
The truly good leaders, while never pushovers, seem to share a genuine affection for the people they lead and their actions serve the needs of those same people.
What does any of this have to do with Bottleneck Management or the service industry in general? Quite a lot, actually.
One wouldn’t immediately draw a correlation between the leadership styles of explorers, soldiers and statesmen to the restaurant business, but why not? Those examples were leaders of people, and our business is based on the success of people. An infantry unit’s success is dependent upon words like training, morale, preparedness and teamwork; all qualities that stem from good leadership. In our industry, we may not be in life or death situations, but we do have goals to meet and challenges to overcome. Training, morale, preparedness and teamwork apply to us as well.
Esprit de corps is not just for the Marines.
So while Bottleneck strives to be a leader in its industry, we know we can’t reach that lofty goal without first being great leaders of our own people. It’s a human engine that drives success in our business, and that living, breathing engine needs to be serviced and ultimately led. Thus, our employees must have good leaders who do so with their heads and hearts.
It is in respect to this concept that we talk with Bottleneck managers about the idea of serving our employees. For us that means we do all we can to ensure that our people have the proper tools and training, their voices are heard, they’re motivated and prepared, and that we provide the best possible environment for them to work in. Being the good servant to our people also means that empathy, fairness, compassion, and occasionally inspiration exist in equal measure with accountability, protocols and standards.
As managers of people, we may need to remind ourselves of these tenets from time to time, but they represent the core of our managerial philosophy. At our very best, our managerial authority aspires to serve our people with heart and vigor. I believe Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of Visa, said it best: “If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.”
-Bart Vivian, Director of Operations