Thursday, 19 July 2012

Gluten-free leadership: a lesson in adaptability

It was a hot, humid morning in the heart of summer. I had been over-served the night prior (to no fault of my own), and was desperately hustling back from Toronto to Waterloo, in hopes of making it to an appointment on time. My head ached, my voice had taken the day off, my throat was dry and my stomach was grumbling ... Then, like an oasis in the Sahara, the beautiful plastic sign that reads "Always Fresh. Always Tim Horton's." appeared on the horizon. With a raspy sigh of relief, I wheeled into the parking lot and bounded (lightly) through the door, ready to satisfy my need for an unnecessary amount of caffeine and a yummy breakfast.

Then it hit me, like the Cuervo that I was too friendly with the night before ... I can't think of a single gluten-free item on this menu.

W.T.F. Tim Horton's?

This leads me to my thought of the day regarding the importance of being adaptable and understanding the needs of those around you. Yes, some of you may think that us non-gluten-eaters are weak and will be weeded out by evolution. Yes, most of you who know me ridicule me on a regular basis about my inferior stomach strength. But, no matter what, none of you can disagree with the fact that more and more people today are becoming intolerant to gluten and, to be successful, restaurants are going to need to adapt.

Just as I am going to write a concerned letter laden with exaggeration and emotional outbreaks to someone in a leadership position at Tim Horton's, I urge you to write the same letter to yourself (or just think about it... whatever works).

Are you paying attention to the changing circumstances of the environment around you?
Are you offering leadership that every member of your team can access and enjoy?
Are you soliciting honest and real feedback from your subordinates, teammates, supervisors... and then acting on this feedback?
Are you truly providing the best leadership service that you can to everyone that deserves it?
Are you in tune with the needs of everyone around you? Are you in tune with your own needs?

Think about it.

Every day, something changes ... is your ear close enough to the ground that you will be able to sense the change? I'd like to share with you something that a student leader said to me that really hit home - I asked him what leadership quality was the most important when leading a team ... and he turned to me and said,

"To lead a community, you must be a part of that community."

Now, I'm not saying that the CEO of Tim Horton's needs to stop eating gluten. But, I am saying that he needs to empathize with his customers who can't, and work to understand and meet their needs.

All in all, leadership is just as much leading a group of people as it is understanding and joining that group of people. People won't understand your vision if you don't understand theirs. People won't work to reach your goals if you don't work to reach theirs. People won't eat your gluten if you don't try to stop eating gluten (okay, that one was a stretch ... but hopefully you get my point). It is essential that you are not only in-tune with the needs of those around you, but that you are also willing to adapt to those needs whenever the situation calls for it.

So, with that ... I leave you with this ...

Do you offer gluten-free leadership?

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