Learning from Guide Michelin awarded chefs about leadership

Joachim Heinz


Cooking trainingYesterday I found an interesting article in the german economy newspaper “Handelsblatt”. Handelsblatt did an interview with the head-chef Christian Jürgens about his job, his 3rd Guide Michelin star and his understanding of leadership. It is astonishing how this guy changed from boss to leader in order to achieve better results with his team. Learn how he did that.

I have deep respect of star chefs in large and high quality restaurants. They produce awesome dinings for dozens or hundred people in the same time. They act like orchestra conductors, they need fantasy and expert knowledge about any kind of food. And they need a high-performance team in order to run the kitchen. A real high performance-team with high-skilled experts for meat, dessert, vegetables and so on. So how do you get highest performance out of the team?

Like a boss
Let´s come back to Christian. In the beginning of his job he said in the interview “he was something like “friendly-aggressive””. He thought he knows everything best and told the team members in harsh words about the “what” and the “how” of their work. Like a boss. Well this produces fire under the team members and for a while they run because they become afraid of the fire under them. The problem is that this behavior directly leads into nowhere: What if the team members need more push? As a boss you need to make more fire. It ends up in either the crash of the team or burn-outs.

A better way in leading
It seems that our star chef recognized that his way of “friendly-aggressive knowing everything best” is not the best way. So he began to work on his leadership style. He learned to behave more like a trainer. A trainer is not the best expert in meat or vegetable – the team member has this task. But a trainer knows the cooking strategy best. The trainer has the best overview. And the most important task of a trainer is to coach and support his players on the field to become the best experts in meat, dessert and vegetables. He produces fire “in” the team members by showing that they are important to the entire strategy and for the success. And this kind of fire is a long-lasting and motivating kind of fire – it activates passion and trust.
But there was one big challenge for our Michelin star chef Christian.

To transform from “expert-behaving boss” to a “motivational leader” you need to accept that you are not the best expert in everything any more. Your team members will be. You have to be clear that by supporting your best team members they may leave your team because they became successful and visible to others.
A boss primarily cares for his own success and glory. A leader primarily cares for the success of the team members. Between this step is your ego – Christian worked on his self-understanding and achieved to make the hard way towards leadership.

But isn´t that the highest achievement in leadership life to make other people successful and support their lives? My congratulations to his courage to go this way.


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Source: “Das ist hier kein Heile-Gänschen-Kurs” Handelsblatt 28.02.2014 Interview with Christian Jürgens.

The only important factor of good leadership

Joachim Heinz


Climbing team struggles to the summit.Having a deep look into my partnership with my wife I see that there is one very special item that makes the connection very strong and reliable: It´s trust. With trust I can rely, with trust I can let go, with trust I can talk about problems.

Now lets have a look on business side and here on leadership. Lets talk about trust and why this one factor is the most important one. I dive into some important leadership aspects with the perspective of trust.

Enable your employees – As a good leader you care in a way for your employees so that they get enabled and do their job without your interference. In order to achieve this you have to have trust in them – and if you let them do, they will do it much better than you ever might tought of.

Share your resources – As a god leader you share your resources like money or business contacts. Why not giving access to an important contact directly to a project member instead of hoarding it and being a unnesseccary proxy? Have trust – your business contact will not be away because of just one visit. And your teammember will be happy to do it alone.

Communicate transparently – As a good leader you act as transparent as possible. Well thats not always the truth but the rest can be shared. Why not sharing personal business targets openly? Because somebody might counteract against them? Or if you miss your targets somebody will blame you? No. You will see that transparent communication will end up in a mass of followers that support you much more than you ever thougt. Have trust, give it a try.

Finally nothing is perfect and there will be situation where the given trust was not a too good idea. Here i prefer doing the same on business and private life – sit together on some coffee and talk about the problem – it will be solved of course, trust me.

© Greg Epperson –