4 Myths About Restaurant Leadership Debunked

You made it to the top! You are a leader in your restaurant. Before you get too comfortable, let’s see if your leadership game is on point. Being called a leader and being a leader are at times not one and the same. With more and more restaurants opening each year the strain on the labor pool is becoming an epidemic. We struggle to fill leadership positions. Maybe the reason is because we don’t have a clear understanding of what true leadership is?

Undeclared expectations and undefined roles are usually at the forefront of this dilemma. We need to do a better job talking about what true leadership is. There are a lot of urban myths out there about what people may think is leadership. To understand what leadership is, we first must take a look at what it is not.

Here are four common myths about restaurant leadership:

Myth #1: Leadership is a title.

leader ship

Truth: Leadership is not about title at all. In fact, true leadership is available to anyone. Too many people like to pull rank. It’s the classic ego driven mindset of “I’m the (insert job title here) and you’re not!”. This mindset creates fear and intimidation in the restaurant. Culture turns toxic and people jump ship as soon as they find anything that appears to be better.

Leadership is about taking action and taking personal accountability. You can’t sit on the sidelines and not play in the game. Leaders value action over words. How can you spot a leader? By the words they use. True leaders avoid statements that start with “they”, “why”, and “when” and focus on blame or shame. Like in the following:

  • “They are stupid.”
  • “Why don’t they get it?”
  • “When will they start to follow the checklist I made?”

Ask questions that have a “poor me” attitude and you will exactly get what you ask for. Instead true leaders take personal accountability and ask questions like:

  • “What can I do to train my team more?”
  • “What can I do to clarify my expectations and the standards?”
  • “What can I do to ensure the team understands and is appreciated for using the checklists?”

Empower yourself and empower your team by stepping up and taking the actions of a leader. Leadership does not require a title.

Myth #2: Leadership is natural.

Truth: While some people do take to the concept of leadership faster than others, no one is born with all the skills required to be a true leader. If fact, sometimes those with natural leadership skills don’t feel a need to develop those skills to their highest potential. They get stuck.

Having natural skills is at times a curse, because you become comfortable. You get some results and then are satisfied. True leaders are never content with where they are now. They have a drive to learn, to grow, to become better. In today’s competitive market becoming satisfied with the status quo is an invitation to mediocrity. Mediocrity is the slow death of a restaurant.

black belt leadership

In the martial arts, many see getting their first degree black belt as the end goal. Once you are there, that’s it you know it all. Those people don’t understand that getting your first degree black belt is making a statement that you are now ready to really start learning. The same for making it into leadership. Now, the real work begins. True leaders don’t rest on their laurels thinking “they made it” or “they paid their dues” and it’s time to kick back.

Leadership is about consistently pushing yourself to become the best version of yourself.

Myth #3: Leadership is hard.

Truth: Leadership has challenges at times (especially if it’s poor leadership). No one ever said being a true leader was easy. To make your life easier, however, you will need to focus on the five “C’s” to become a true leader:

Certainty - to must be 100 percent certain that you want to be the leader. Don’t take the job for the money, take the job because you want to have an impact!

Clarity - you must set goals and have crystal clear vision of where you want your brand to go. It’s like being dropped off in the middle of the forest with a map and compass, you’ll just end up wandering aimlessly. You gotta know where you are and where you are going in order to make an action plan to get there!

Confidence - now, confidence is different from arrogance. One is internal and one is external. Confidence comes from your own beliefs that you can and will get the job done. Arrogance is external and boasting to others about your skills. One is all talk and the other is all action. Choose wisely.

Conviction - there will be times you question yourself and your goals. You will be pushed to the point where you will want to quit. Don’t. You must have conviction that you will get through the valleys in order to make it to the summit of your goals.

Courage - you must have the ability to face your fears and hear hard truths. Remember that the truth will set you free, right after it first pisses you off. Face those times of fear and doubt straight on with the one thing you have that no one can take from you and that is your inner strength.

leadership circle

Myth #4: Leadership is about having all the answers.

Truth: Leadership is never about having all the answers. It’s actually about asking the right questions. If you find that you are the smartest person in the room, then you need to be in a different room. Make sure you have people in your life who are a positive influence on you. Join a mastermind group. Get a mentor. Hire an executive coach. Read more books or listen to audiobooks. Make a commitment to become a better person.

Many people think that once they reach the top of their organization, that’s it. Truth is that is the case only if you want it to be. True leadership, though, thrives on growth, learning, and self-improvement. The Japanese have a word for this called kaizen. It’s a philosophy that permeates their culture. It means constant and never ending improvement. Some days you might have some big areas of growth. Other days, it might be a few millimeters, however, always moving forward. Always improving.

True leadership is about being honest. If you don’t know, then just admit that you don’t know the answer (right now). Then, search for the truth. Leaders gain more respect when they show that they are human. As mentioned before, it takes courage to be a leader and admit you may not have all the answers.

If you are currently a leader in your organization, then take a hard look at these myths and see if you are guilty believing in any of them. That could be what is holding you back from going to the next level. If you are not officially in a leadership role, but you would like to be… Then what’s stopping you?

Remember that true leadership doesn’t require a title, it only requires that you take personal accountability for your actions.

All you need to do is step up.

By Donald Burns, Industry Expert