This past week I had the great privilege to stay in Lake Tahoe and spend some much-needed time with my mom, sister’s family, and my family. As you might typically do on a vacation, we got to eat out and experience some of the local culinary culture. Always a fun event, and the older I get, the more I enjoy it. But it was what I experienced at two different restaurants that caused me to ponder an aspect of leadership that perhaps I have not given much attention to before.
While in Lake Tahoe, I dined at a burger joint one night with the gang. It was locally-owned and the entire staff consisted of two guys behind the counter, one taking orders and one cooking the food. Not a surplus of staff by any stretch of the imagination.
But as we ordered, it was apparent the guy taking orders knew how to work his customers. He looked us in the eye, gave us helpful information, gave us tips on how many fries to order to help us as a group, smiled, and was concerned that he led us to an authentic experience of what the culture of this place was meant to be. A few minutes later, he delivered our food, still smiling, and made sure we were taken care of. He led us to an experience where, by the end of eating, I openly praised both the burger and this young guy. Someday, I hope to go back.
Contrast that to our closing night of dinner out, a local pizza dive that was always busy when we drove by…an excellent sign of things to come. For a party of 10, we got in quickly and had our own place in the back.
A young lady came out, greeted us cheerfully, and took our orders. The mouth-watering had begun. Thirty minutes later, though, we were still sitting at our table, except drinks were empty and there was no sign of pizza. Granted, things were getting busy and perhaps our waitress was overworked and understaffed. My concern was that there was no communication or sense of urgency. When our pizzas finally came out, hope was beginning to be restored, and we ventured out to ask for more drinks. Ten minutes later, a pitcher of water came out with a Coke.
It just kind of symbolized her service. We heard several replies of “of course” when requests were made, but there was just not the service or communication to back up what was said. No anticipation of need.
Please, don’t think this to be a monologue about dining service and the I’m-a-customer-and-I-deserve-better, because it is not. But there was a clear difference in how each led to an end experience. In each case, we got the food we paid for, and in both cases, the burgers and pizza were delicious. But in the latter, though we reached our “destination” in getting pizza, the pizza itself was the only memorable element I could cling to. The journey was a bit rough in getting there.
Leadership is not just about any ‘ole type of service. And it is certainly more than just getting to the destination. Leadership as service must be done in such a manner that you give off an “aroma” that clearly links why you do something to how you do it. The what is not always enough, and as an engaging leader, it should not be. This concept is explained to us more succinctly in 2 Corinthians 2:14, where Paul says that “through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” In other words, our service through our leadership should have an attractive fragrance that imitates the Gospel.
All of us have the awesome privilege to lead others. Take them on a journey they will not forget. Serve in authenticity, show compassion, communicate often, anticipate needs, make it memorable. What do you think?
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