But I'm the Chef...
We all need a little inspiration at times to keep us focused and you’ll find no shortage of people on the Internet sharing their inspirational quotes about what being a good leader is all about.
But, at what level of leadership do we become above being part of the team? At what level of leadership, do we no longer have to leave our office or give a co-worker five minutes of support? Does our title alone make us a leader and exempt us from having to contribute to the running of daily operations?
I recently witnessed a situation where the Executive Chef and Sous Chef were working to open a new operation. With the storeroom and all walk-ins all located in the basement of the building, they had a dishwasher assisting by making several trips up and down the freight elevator getting them supplies for a better part of the day. They even had him assisting with prep-work so they could complete their work and make their jobs easier.
At the end of the day, pots and pans were stacked high because they had been left unattended for most of the day. The dishwasher was by himself because a new employee never showed up for work. The dishwasher who had been assisting the Chefs all day long now found himself buried in a mountain of pots and pans that had just been dumped in the dish room. The Chef and Sous Chef put away the food, cleaned their work spaces, and left for the day; their day was done.
The first thing that came to my mind, where is the leadership?
Where was the team effort and support for the dishwasher, who without question had given the Chefs the support they had asked for all day long? We all have our duties that we are responsible for and it is understood that the Chefs are not typically responsible for washing pots and pans. That’s why we hire people to do that job. But, where was the common courtesy to support a co-worker or the team effort that “leaders” so often talk about? If you’re too busy to help, what about finding someone who can assist? But, by walking away and ignoring the situation because it may not be your job does not make you a leader.
This came as no surprise as a couple of days prior, the Executive Chef commented, “I think these guys are going to work really hard for me.” While I make no claims of being a Leadership Expert, I do know leadership isn’t all about you.
Being a leader isn’t always easy, nor is it always rewarding. Sometimes as the leader you might even wish you weren’t. Being a leader isn’t a singular mindset, it’s about what’s best for the operation and the overall good of the team. As the leader of a kitchen or the entire operation, you don’t get to pick and choose when being a leader is most beneficial or convenient for you.
It isn’t your title that makes you a leader. Leadership is about respect and not just earning the staff’s respect, but more importantly, showing your staff the respect they deserve.