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8 Leadership Lessons I Learned from Dan Barber - Chef's Table
September 9, 2016
Dan Barber (Chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, New York, US. He was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2009.)
Being a leader is difficult. What exactly does it take to be a leader?
Dan Barber, a celebrated chef, dedicated farmer and food industry revolutionary, has been leading a fight to change the way we think about, and grow, our food for over a decade.
Here are the 8 leadership lessons I learned from Chef Dan Barber's story:
1. Some greater leaders are made -- People who start out with a modicum of innate leadership capability can actually become very good, even great leaders.
Backstory: "Dan was a quiet kid. He wasn't bursting with talent." says David Barber, Dan's older brother. "Do you really want to spend that kind of time reading and writing?" People said to him,"What is your goal?" David later expressed, "Being a leader, there's a high expectation and I think that became a calling that made it clear to him that the work he had in front of him was probably vastly different from what he might have imagined when he started cooking."
2. Passion, Vision and Mission are the three pillars of Leadership.
Backstory: "Dan is really a model of who the modern chef is whose goal is to do more than just feed people a delicious dinner in their restaurant," says Ruth Reichl, acclaimed food writer, "but wants to change his community and, ultimately, the world. That's a very different place for a chef to be than a chef has ever been before." "Where the food you're eating or the place that you're at points out to something larger - a restaurant that has an overriding message and purpose. It's about something." said Dan. "I look at my challenges as creating that cuisine around the things that I believe in. I want the pieces to come together and I want more farms and more diversity. I'd like to keep pushing. How do we think about this 20 years down the road? How do we put them together in a way that speaks to a true Hudson Valley cuisine? That's where we’re headed."
3. A leader who sees the bigger picture is able to inspire and motivate others.
Backstory: "The biggest challenge of working with Dan is we are always moving, pushing, looking for something new, looking for a new angle, looking for a way to rethink what we're doing. I've never felt like we've arrived, and I don't think we ever will arrive. There are times that can be very difficult and frustrating." Adam Kaye, Vice President, Culinary Affairs, Blue Hill expressed, "I will be totally honest. It can be quite frustrating. But it's also incredibly exciting to be a part of something like that."
4. A leader pours himself into his work.
Backstory: "I have never worked with a chef that is in the trenches with you. From our menu meeting in the morning to running around all service long. He's in there, cooking with us every single day." Adam said, "I think people really just think he sits and writes a lot and is a thinker, but he is truly a working chef this far into his career. A lot of other chefs aren't doing that. He's there all the time."
5. A leader is one who never quits.
Backstory: "I (Dan) believe strongly that good cooking is physical. It demands a kind of conditioning. Because of the drudgery and the hours and the exhaustion that this kind of work demands. It does attract people who are attracted to a certain kind of abuse. It's exhilarating, and the challenge is sort of "How much of it can you stand?"
6. A leader must understand and admit his faults and failings.
Backstory: Dan admits that he has a bad temper. He also acknowledges that shouting at his cooks mercilessly it's not a good way to be successful. Dan indicates, "I do have a temper, and a really bad one, and one that I regret. I don't want to be the kind of chef that intimidates, and acts in a way that's abhorrent, so I am working on it."
7. A leader questions and challenges the status quo.
Backstory: Dan started out just wanting to be a chef and wanting to serve delicious food, but he's got such a restless mind and such a curious imagination that he always asks the next question, Why is this better? What's new? What's good? What's different? When you question everything, you very quickly get to the ethics and to the biology and to the deeper questions, "How do we use the planet? What are our responsibilities to our neighbors? What are our responsibilities to the future?
8. A leader understands the value of teamwork and unity.
Backstory: "(Dan's family farm) is a working farm and a farm laboratory, so we do a lot of projects with different universities and seed companies, and we also have a really strong educational focus, so we're able to have this kind of inter-disciplinary relationship between educators, farmers, engineers, health care practitioners, chefs." Dan explained his partnership that he has built with various entities.
"Always be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else." ~ Judy Garland.