Oct 6, 2011

Gordon Ramsey Leadership Lessons :o)

Leadership problems are always the same (and by default, the solutions as well), whether you are in a Restaurant, a Wall Street Firm, or any other profession. I am a huge Gordon Ramsey fan, so what lessons can you learn from him?

1. Without exception, poor leadership is at the heart of every business problem.
The Navy SEALs have a saying: “There are no bad boat crews, only bad leaders.”
They’re right.
We are social animals, like bees, ants and wolves. In order to function properly in crises, we need a leader.
Look at any stalled organization in the world, from a small mom & pop restaurant in Devonshire to a nation the size of the US: Stagnation, uncertainty, lack of direction, these always stem from an absence of clear leadership.
Watch enough Gordon Ramsay shows and you will notice a universal constant: Every restaurant in trouble has a leadership problem.
If a new hire sucks at their job, whose fault is it? (Who hired them? Who hired the person who hired them? Who hired the person who hired the person who hired them?) If a project team is stalled and things aren’t moving forward, whose fault is it? Who owns that project? Who is holding them accountable?
Who sets the example? Who makes sure things get done? Who makes sure things are done right? Who sets expectations for the entire business? Who is in charge here?
A leader in denial isn’t a leader. He’s a drunk driver pretending to be sober, driving his car and everyone in it into a ditch.
2. Passion is the fuel of excellence.
Motivation comes and goes. Motivation is needed at regular intervals, but at some point, if people don’t learn to motivate themselves, “motivating” people in an organization becomes a full time job.  True motivation comes from doing things that are meaningful and yield results.
If you have to motivate someone to do their job every day, why are they here to begin with?
There is no gray area here. Passion vs. no passion. Success vs. no success.
There’s an honest conversation that needs to happen between a boss and an “unmotivated” employee (or between a consultant and a client), and it centers around passion. The question is this: Why are you here? 
Whatever you end up doing, whatever profession you end up pursuing, it’s going to be hell.  It doesn’t matter what the job is: Actors, musicians, copywriters, photographers, salespeople, product managers, engineers, chefs, firefighters, EMTs, if they’re worth a damn, they all bleed for their passion. They suffer for it every day.
The more passionate you are about something, the more you are going to give up for it, the more it’s going to make you bleed. And here’s the key to it all: The more you’re willing to bleed for it, the more you will. It’s just how it works.
The death of passion in any business, from a small restaurant in Devonshire, UK to a global super-brand means the death of forward momentum, the death of quality, the death of every single competitive advantage fought for in the past. If you cannot re-ignite passion in a company’s leader, nothing else you do will yield results. Just like a chef who is not passionate about food can not make a restaurant be successful, a CEO who is not passionate about what they does cannot make their company kick ass.
3. Sugar-coating the truth is for suckers.
When a ship is sinking, every minute counts. This means that every interaction counts. Why sugar-coat the truth? Why perpetuate belief systems that have led to mediocrity or failure? If product quality sucks, it sucks. Say it, own it, try it on for size.
If half the fun of watching Gordon Ramsay’s shows is to watch him rip restaurants apart and yell at incompetent chefs, the real value of his apparent meanness is this: Gordon Ramsay isn’t there to make people feel good about failure. His objective is to fix restaurants in trouble. You don’t do that by wrapping the cold hard reality of failure in a blanket of warm euphemisms. If something sucks, it sucks. If something rocks, it rocks. Honesty, even when it comes across as being brutal, forces people who are living in denial to face the truth. is it a shock to the system? Yes. It is meant to be.
To many TV viewers, it seems that Gordon Ramsay is nothing but a loudmouth, pretentious asshole. The reality of it is that he has figured out that success and positive results are infinitely more valuable to confidence, self esteem and professional pride than platitudes and bullshit. In that context, sugar-coating bad news only prolongs mediocrity, failure and pain.
That’s reality, and if it needs to be brutal, then it needs to be brutal. Deal with it.
Your job, believe it or not, is to do your job. If the client can’t face the truth and wants to fire you, then guess what? Let them. It’s their company going down in flames, not yours.
You have to be willing to be blunt. If the only way honesty will get someone’s attention is to deliver it brutally, then you have to find the courage to be the guy who delivers bad news to the CEO without embellishing or minimizing the bad news. That’s your job.
Here’s the lesson: The faster you get to the truth, the clearer your perspective of where you are and where you need to go will be. It’s that simple. Anything that slows down or otherwise hinders that process is a liability. Get rid of the bullshit. Cut to the chase. The more painful and unpleasant it is to hear, the more valuable it is to you and your organization.
4. Competence is key.
It is not enough to be a critic and point out what’s wrong with a business. Anybody can do that part. Once you identify the problems and make the brass understand what is wrong with their operation though, you also have to know how to fix them.
Theory might be great on paper, but you need to be able to show people how to get their job done.
One of the things Gordon Ramsay does in every show is teach restaurants in trouble how to do things they don’t know how to do. Note that he doesn’t leave his “clients” with a strategic brief or a findings report. He doesn’t just recommend that they revamp their menu or that they improve the quality of their dishes. He gets in the kitchen and teaches their chefs things they need to learn how to do in order to move forward. He shows them stuff that works, stuff he knows will work because he’s used it before.
Competence here makes all the difference in the world.
Competence, defined in only 6 words, boils down to this: Don’t just tell me. Show me.
Poor leadership, the slow death of passion, cultures of denial and the erosion of competence. Everywhere you go, you will find the same thing: The Post Office, your local bank, your favorite software company, a global superbrand, the local steakhouse. Each of these four factors will kill a business, any business, faster than you can say “no customers.” And while Chef Ramsay’s unorthodox style (unapologetically pointing out key problems, confronting those responsible, breaking them down, then dragging them – kicking and screaming – towards resolution) might seem inappropriate for “the real world” of business, while his body language and choice of vocabulary and confrontational style may seem out of place beyond the shock-happy world of reality TV, the guy is spot on. He is there to perform an emergency intervention, to turn a failing business around.

I recommend going to the Source, there is much more there!


  1. Good stuff. He speaks his mind and tells it like it is. I agree the more passion you have for something the more you'll sacrifice for it. "True motivation comes from doing things that yield results."

  2. This man terrifies me. I never watch any of his shows.

  3. I wonder if there is something in RAMSEY genes that can motivate folk. That is good stuff.
    Dave Ramsey can motivate. Never even thought that they may related.

    There is so much truth in the entry it is scary, funny thing is most leaders know this, but have no clue how to 'save their business'.

    Thanks. I needed part of this entry TODAY!


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