If you’ve been reading the screed for any period of time you know that I’m a huge fan of Top Chef.
This week’s episode provides us with the raw ingredients for our Foodie Friday Fun. It was “restaurant wars” week, in which two chefs each conceive of and open a restaurant in 48 hours. The chef selects other contestants as team members to serve as their staff and it’s not unusual for the losing head chef to go home. What happened this week made great television, but it also demonstrated a fantastic business point for anyone who wants to lead a team.
One of the team captains selected a contestant who probably should have gone home several weeks ago. It’s obvious that her talent and work ethic are not up to the standards of the other remaining contestants, much less up to those of the woman who chose her for her team (and no, she wasn’t a top pick). Over the course of the prep day and the service day, the slacker chef delayed preparing a critical part of a dish which resulted in the dish not matching the head chef’s vision for it. At judges’ table, the head chef did not complain about the other chef’s refusal to work as instructed. The judges had no way to know what had caused the offending dish to come up short. All they knew is that the head chef said she was responsible, both for the dish and for the overall meal. She went home.
The business lesson is critical The leader’s taking responsibility and refusing to complain about her subordinate when she could have done so in order to save herself shows the type of character that makes a great leader. More importantly, it show that she understands that real leadership means assuming accountability to go along with your organizational authority.
That’s not to say she demonstrated perfect leadership skills. As things weren’t going her way she got very frustrated. Like many perfectionists she was hard on herself and she shut down to a certain extent when she should have been more assertive. Things often don’t go the way we envision in business (in life to, come to think of it) and we need to face the situation, adapt, and be flexible. If we’re not confident we can’t possibly instill confidence in our teams.
The web is filled with the comments of outraged fans of the show screaming how the “wrong” chef was sent home. Maybe the verdict was misplaced but the leadership lesson certainly wasn’t.