Success very often follows leaders who can practice what they preach

Model behavior: success very often follows leaders who can practice what they preach

Ron Yudd

Turnover, recruitment, retention, training programs, service excellence, caring attitudes, development of future managers and leaders — that is just a short list of the concerns and worries in the life of restaurant managers today.

All of those challenges can be grouped under one main theme: leadership. It is the real challenge for today’s busy managers.

In order to truly develop service excellence, build cover counts and sustain profitability, managers must pass on to, and develop real world leadership skills in, the people that make up their teams. The day-to-day operational concerns and worries can be overcome only by ensuring that leadership is nurtured at all levels of the organization.

What does that “nurturing of leadership skills” really mean? Where does leadership come into play when the entrees for the party of 25 are not yet plated and the host of the group is looking for you? Yes, it is about organizing, timing, solid communicating and special-event planning skills, but it also is much more. It’s about passing those skills and others on to those who make up your team. It’s about giving to your team before you can expect something in return.

The first step in the process is to understand what a real leader is. A real leader has the following characteristics.

He is (1) value driven, leading by living what he believes in; (2) service based, working from a position of service to others; (3) a problem solver, knocking down roadblocks for others to succeed; (4) selfless, deflecting praise from himself by showering it on others; (5) a communicator, communicating a vision at every opportunity.

That is the first checklist to measure how you are doing as a leader within your organization. Understanding the foundation of leadership will help you begin the process of helping your team members reach their full potential and ensure that your legacy of leadership is in place.

Let’s explore each of the leadership legacy qualities.

Value driven means that the actions one takes are based on the values and beliefs he professes. The leader acts and reacts in a way that is true to what he believes and what he feels is the right thing to do or the right way to behave. For example, be on time if you expect others to be on time; wear a hat or a hairnet when you are helping in the kitchen and you expect others to follow the policy; and provide guests with service excellence if you expect your staff to do the same. If the leader believes that those actions are important, he lives them each day while leading the organization.

The service-based leader is always in service to others within the organization. He acts as a tool giver so that others not only can get the job done but also can exceed their own expectations. Making sure that others have the tools to get the job done is a mark of the service-based leader. Are there enough plates, iced-tea spoons and linen, and detailed information about an event available to the team? What knowledge can be passed on to help the team learn how to do things better or easier? The service-based leader always is asking the question: How can I be of service to my team, or how can I help the team improve its performance?

The problem-solver leader always looks for the roadblocks that are getting in the way of the success of his people. He thrives on “eating roadblocks for breakfast.” He invests his time in talking with the team members to find out where the glitches or potential glitches are lurking. He seeks problems out and destroys them. He fully enjoys the challenges and victories of problem solving. He bases his daily success on the number of problems that were solved and the number of roadblocks that were overcome.

Selfless leaders deflect praise away from themselves by ensuring that others receive it. Envision a departing guest who raves about a particular dessert that was part of your buffet that evening. The selfless leader makes sure that the guest knows the dessert was really the creation of the young up-and-coming pastry chef and makes sure the guest’s comments will be passed on personally to the pastry chef. Praise for the selfless leader comes in knowing that he or she provided the motivation — and maybe the culinary direction — for this young pastry chef to be able to succeed.

Communicators use every opportunity to talk about their vision for the operation. These leaders remind the staff exactly what service excellence and a caring environment mean. They are able to take their vision of what the restaurant and the concept is all about and express it in practical, clear and concise language. They also have a consistent message. The vision, let’s say “service excellence,” means the same today as it will tomorrow. Everyone in the organization knows where such a leader stands. The message is clear, consistent and always part of the day-to-day operation.

The five basic qualities, or “tools,” of a successful leader must be firmly in place before your team can begin to reach its full potential. The characteristics must be part of your leadership-skills inventory before you can begin to teach and nurture them in your key players. Look at the characteristics again and ask yourself how you are doing in each category. Note where you are strongest and where you need improvement.

Successful businesses and successful leaders possess those qualities and work very hard at instilling them in people within their organizations. That is where the concept of legacy comes in. Your leadership legacy is what you potentially leave behind in the members of your team. Have they become selfless problem solvers who live their values day-to-day in the work they perform?

The best-run organizations have those types of people using those types of tools at all levels. In organizations like that turnover is low, service excellence is high, and the staff and guests are the happiest — everything we really want as a successful restaurant manager.

Ron Yudd is the president of Points of Profit Leadership Inc., a firm providing leadership framing and coaching to the restaurant and foodservice industry. He also is the founder oldie Leadership Cares Foundation, an industry-related, nonprofit organization dedicated to developing marketable leadership skills in young adults by involving them in mentoring programs, literacy tutoring and hunger relief He can be reached at

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COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning