All his life he wanted to be a banker. While in college, he took a job in a New Jersey restaurant and “fell addicted to the adrenal rush that happens during a dinner service.” Twenty-five years after that fateful day, Mario Batali now operates and owns 14 top-tier Italian restaurants renowned for simple, elegant, authentic cuisine. Recently, he was asked how he, a person with little formal training in management, built this thriving enterprise and maintained such high consistency and quality. He said, “It was mainly by trial and error.”
Batali is a man with many excellent food recipes, but he proposes no recipe for his success. His joyful demeanor expresses an understated respectful giggle at the possibility that a formula for being a leader could exist. He did, however, drop some delicious crumbs of wisdom about his lessons of experience in this intensely competitive industry.
- Follow your passion. Your calling may not be your plan A.
- Recruit within. When asked about how he found top talent executive chefs he said, “We don’t. we bring them up from the team. The highest levels we hire are line cooks.”
- Staying on the same page takes extra energy. “I work personally with all executive chefs weekly so they never have to guess where the organization is headed.”
- How has he managed to avoid burn out? “No matter what, my kids and family come first, then the restaurant, then everything else.”
- “My objective as a manager, of course, is to remove the obstacles that prohibit greatness in the people I hire.” His off-the-cuff remark may be worth adding to your and your managers’ leadership competency list; or, you could just rephrase it as a reminder of how you can support the people in your life.
Journal Entry: Which of these five morsels of understanding will help you improve service to those important people in your leadership and life? What action will you take today? To read the full article about Mario Batali, visit www.hbr.org/batali