If you can’t stand the heat
BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Perhaps the most famous of them all is celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay. And he is likewise renowned for his hot temper as he is for his food. On shows such as Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, and Kitchen Nightmares, we often see Ramsay yelling at the participants, berating their cooking, their preparation, their choices, and their management abilities.

To the untrained and inexperienced person, the observer of Ramsay could easily describe Ramsay’s leadership style as an authority-compliance leadership style. And then there are chefs of lesser renowned who seem to be copying his style and demeanor as if mimicking what he does would earn them the same amount of fame and notoriety and boost their career.

Not so fast! Ramsay is an authority on food. He holds 12 Michelin stars at his different restaurants. The reason why he could achieve this is that Ramsay must insist on strict compliance with his recipes, food presentation, food freshness, food safety, and kitchen sanitation. A failure in any of those areas of food production could mean a loss of status and prestige, loss of customers, and loss of human life.

Glen Sallee University of La Verne probed more in-depth into this and gave a fascinating observation. Sallee says, “Looking more closely, we see that Ramsay is identifying and developing artists in the kitchen. Ramsay is a transformational leader who employs a strict adherence to proper cooking techniques, skills, etc., to transform ordinary chefs into artists.

Chefs that cannot handle Ramsay’s style, chefs that wash out, are of little concern to Ramsay. Chefs that can run the gauntlet and master Ramsay’s labyrinth receive the keys to a lifestyle that few achieve. Those conquering chefs realize the highest levels of respect in the industry.” In other words, Ramsay does not yell just for yelling’s sake. He wanted to produce artists out of his chefs, and that is a noble thing to do.

Salle sees something else. Sallee says, “What is essential to understand is that Ramsay does not yell at chefs who make mistakes; he yells at chefs who make the same mistakes repeatedly. Often in a kitchen, there is no one to supervise what a chef is doing with the food he is preparing. To be a great chef, a true artist, requires a chef of high integrity and ethics.”

No one doubts Ramsay’s integrity or ethics when it comes to food. He is faithful in form and character. And in this context, the phrase would apply beautifully. “If you cannot stand the heat – that is the heat of becoming an artist – of becoming someone better than your current self – then you need to get out of the kitchen!”

[1]Copying his “leadership style” for notoriety’s sake is dumb and stupid. You can, of course, do what Ramsay does if you have a couple of Michelin stars to your resume and, most importantly, if you have it in your heart to produce excellent leaders out of your team so that they can shine one day.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination, promoting a leadership style based on yelling and being dictatorial as the many participants of my leadership training seminars would attest. Every situation should take into consideration its proper context and timing.

When I gathered the team together a few years ago and probed into the reason why their work is not productive, and results are low, I spoke respectfully but straightforwardly as I am prone to do about why this management team is failing. I wanted to develop their entrepreneurial skills with the hope that one day they can shine in the industry, and I would have produced a set of next-generation leaders.

The only problem is that the key leaders got themselves together; complained that while I am in the business of training and inspiring others, I am not capable of inspiring them and that they were demotivated with the meetings I had with them. I held my peace, but at the back of my mind, my thoughts were swirling. “Those clowns did not even understand they were hired to deliver results and that the company did not pay them good money to be “inspired” as they continue to provide inferior performance and low results.

Expectedly, they got out of the kitchen, they cannot stand the heat, and their exit was not even appropriate. I mentored another team. Younger and more eager to learn. Within two years, these mavericks can run the business many times better than those who have left the kitchen while many companies are trying to employ them. I don’t hold them back. If they can do better, I have encouraged them to go out there and create a name of their own to become artists and earn those “stars.”

Transformational leaders give meaning, a sense of purpose to the organization and its followers. Now we get to know this famous chef better.

(Francis Kong’s much awaited and highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership 2020 Edition runs on Jan. 29-30 at Seda Hotel, BGC. Attend the two-day inspiring and effective seminar-workshop. For further inquiries or advanced reservations contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)


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