Leadership vs. Management

A recent trip took us to a restaurant, where I was reminded that there will always be a difference between managers and leaders. As developers of leaders, we frequently facilitate the conversation about those very differences, and often one of the distinctions noted places managers in a category reserved for those who carry out someone else’s vision, while leaders are in the business of developing people.

We were the unfortunate witnesses to a public (out in the open area of the restaurant, in front of other patrons and bar staff) berating of our waitress by the general manager of the restaurant. Our waitress, overcome with tears, continued to provide us with exceptional customer service, but our two conversations (both of our own initiation) with the general manager proved less than satisfying.

I concede that I don’t know ALL the facts surrounding the disaster, that ended with our waitress quitting, and our abrupt departure from the restaurant, not having eaten because we no longer felt welcome or hungry. However, I do think there are some common lessons we can glean from the experience.

Regardless of the circumstances, and whether or not some grave error had been committed by the waitress (she seated us after the kitchen no longer wanted to prepare food), here’s what I think the general manager lost for the restaurant in one night:

  1. The obvious and immediate loss to the restaurant was our business. They lost immediate revenue for the food that was prepared, but we chose not to eat. The general manager assumed the cost in our departing conversation.
  2. Naturally, we will not be returning, so there is no future revenue, either.
  3. Also lost was our respect for the general manager, and subsequently, the restaurant group that employs him. We were appalled at the outburst, and felt that no behavior could possibly warrant such a reproach.
  4. We immediately wrote a negative review on one prominent social media site, and then tweeted about it, too. Remember that one unhappy customer who speaks out publicly is just the tip of your proverbial iceberg when it comes to your real issues. When was the last time you questioned your customers about their satisfaction levels?
  5. Our waitress was doing her job, and doing it very well by our account. The restaurant lost an employee that not only did her job, but she put the needs of her customers at the top of her priorities. Shouldn’t that be the ultimate desire of any company in the business of customer service?

When we choose to react, rather than to act, we choose to behave at the mercy of our emotions. As leaders, we are completely dependent on those whom we employ for our successes. Developing people is a skill that requires keeping your emotions in check and allowing direct reports to make errors. How else can we possibly help them grow and improve if we intercept their ability to choose? In so doing, we will slowly cut off all of our relationships, and there won’t be any customers left to serve.

While I’d like to believe this was an isolated incident with a power-hungry manager, I know it’s not true. We have each seen this scenario played out in numerous offices, retail establishments, and restaurants. When have you seen poor management in action? Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end?

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About Arminda Lindsay

Arminda is Vice President of Whetstone Leadership, providing a brilliantly different approach to management and leadership training for business professionals.

A social media addict and promoter, a marketing junkie, film & stage actor, an avid swing dancer, and a writer, you can find Arminda regularly chiming in on Twitter, and her allarminda Facebook page, or read her random blog at http://www.allarminda.com.