How to Become a 4-Dimensional Leader

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

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Things move rather quickly in the restaurant industry. One minute you're the assistant, then your supervisor gets terminated, and congratulations, you are now the boss. The sad thing is, most are not prepared properly for this rapid advancement.

Let’s face it, most of your time is spent keeping your head above water, just maintaining day-to-day operations. Who has the extra time to learn how to become a leader? So most will struggle with the responsibilities of their new position. A few will succeed out of the frustration and anxiety that often accompanies being promoted quickly when they tell themselves,“There has to be an easier way.”

The transition from being a manager to becoming a leader can be broken down into four dimensions. Learning these can help you move into a leadership role much faster than that old-fashioned trial-and-error method.

Dimension 1: Management by Modeling

Human beings are great mimics. It’s quite natural for us due to the mirror neurons in our brain. It started when you were a toddler and continues throughout your adult life. We imitate the behavior of those around us. 

Legendary speaker Jim Rohn has a great quote that sums it all up: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time.” For those quickly promoted into management, that could easily be changed to “Your management style will model the people who managed you.” Now if you had fantastic managers whom you worked with that guided, coached, and developed you, congratulations — you are one of the lucky ones.

Dimension 2: Management by One Style

After a new manager has gone through their trial by fire exercise, facing frustrations and setbacks, they settle into their own management style. This usually comes about by observing what works and what doesn’t work. Many at this stage start to build their personal management style, which works fine when they manage people who are like them.

Behavioral surveys like DiSC® and the ProScan® uncover the personality puzzle that makes us all so individualistic. There are four cornerstone behavioral traits that all of us have. The development of the behavioral profile (survey) as we know it was primarily due to the work of the American psychologist, Dr. William Moulton Marston. He was an expert in behavioral understanding. In 1928, he published “The Emotions of Normal People,” in which he outlined the essence of the modern behavioral model.

Marston grouped people along two axes: either active or passive tendencies dependent upon their either antagonistic or favorable view of the environment. From this, the four styles were formed: 

  • Dominance, the take charge trait
  • Extroversion, the people trait
  • Pace, the patience trait
  • Conformity, the systems trait

Everyone has all four of these traits. It’s just that we all have them in different combinations. Think of it as your own behavioral matrix.

The trouble that many new managers get into is failing to understand the dynamics of other people’s behavior recipe that makes them unique. They manage all people the same, which accounts for much of the conflict, stress, and anxiety they experience on a daily basis.

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Dimension 3: Management Awareness

Here is where the manager starts the transformation into becoming a leader. It all begins with self-awareness. Many will have an epiphany or wakeup call that triggers a look inside themselves. This could be from having high turnover rates to being let go from employment. It’s unfortunate that many don’t get this insight until something shakes them up.

The key is to understand that effective leaders first understand themselves and their natural strengths. They then look at their team and understand the behavioral strengths of every individual they work with. Leaders who understand behavioral dynamics then adjust their management style to the individual.

Every behavioral trait has a preferred communication style. Leaders adapt how they communicate with their team by adjusting their communication for the individual. Leaders at this level have moved past “me“ and focus more on “we.”

Dimension 4: Leadership Acquisition

Leaders whom make it past the third dimension really start to see personal and professional growth. They become transformational. They are less concerned about themselves and more concerned about the team. Here everyone in the organization works together towards a common goal and mission. In his 1985 book, “Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations,” Bernard M. Bass describes the traits associated with a leader at this level:

  • They are a model of integrity and fairness.
  • Sets clear goals.
  • Has high expectations.
  • Encourages others.
  • Provides support and recognition.
  • Stirs the emotions of people.
  • Gets people to look beyond their self-interest.
  • Inspires people to reach for the improbable.

The restaurant industry is truly changing. Those that adapt and change with the market have the best chance of survival. It truly is an example of natural selection at work. The ones that make changes make it through. The ones that don’t become extinct.

Leaders set standards high and do the right things to move the company forward. They get up on their soapbox and talk daily about company core values, building the brand, and strengthening the team. 2016 is almost here and yet many restaurants cling to outdated management theories that do not resonate with today’s workers. Management is dead. Leadership is where it’s at.