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Leadership, Leadership Styles & Tips, Restaurant & Bars

Leadership Is Who You Are, Not Just What You Do

As the saying goes, we expect leaders to “lead by example.” And while walking the walk is important, honing in on just that aspect can detract from the most critical part of great leadership — that it’s firmly rooted in the core of who you are, not just simply in what you do.

A leader is born…maybe

There has long been an argument as to whether great leaders are simply born with their talents or if those skills can be taught or acquired throughout life. And while, undoubtedly, those who innately possess these characteristics can have an easier time stepping into a leadership role, there remain too many variables to say for sure that they’ll definitely succeed.

For example, someone may naturally be forward-thinking and a big picture viewer — two traits we tend to attribute to our top leaders — but be unable to fully express those ideas or lack the emotional connections that are necessary to generate excitement and buy-in from others.

Because of this, our greatest leaders likely evolve through a combination of ways — through natural ability, mentoring relationships and lifetime skill accumulation. In addition, many leaders seem to experience a transformative event at some point in their lives, one that fundamentally alters how they feel emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Whether that was a near-death experience or getting fired from their first job, it creates their unique qualities and characteristics and a drive to share their lives with others.

Soft skills at heart

What’s interesting about leaders is that they may not be the most talented person within a company as far as hard skills or technical capabilities go. Where they excel is in their soft skills — forming relationships, connecting emotionally (and sometimes even spiritually) with others and their willingness to share their story and expose exactly who they are.

Whether they are born like this or learned these qualities along the way, at their core they are:

A natural communicator.

Leaders communicate with their team, day in and day out. Their message and delivery are simple and uncomplicated, spurring inspiration and encouragement.

An infectious personality.

Effective leaders often have an almost magnetic personality and exude passion and excitement, drawing others in and putting everyone at ease.

A dreamer and goal-maker.

Dreams and goals go hand-in-hand for leaders. An emphasis too heavy on dreams without the goals or plan to get there isn’t helpful. Great leaders dream big but also outline the steps they need to take to make it happen.

A golden rule follower.

The top leaders understand that you must treat people the way you want to be treated. They place a high value on establishing relationships and respect in the workplace, a quality indicative of how much they truly care about the well-being of their team and customers.

Lead with who you are

We live in a world where the characteristics of strong leadership are being constantly redefined. Traits we once thought of as strengths in leaders — everything from regimented to downright domineering — may have been effective in years gone by, but social and cultural shifts demand a much more personal investment from our leaders today.

Your team wants and needs to know who you are, first and foremost, as a person — one who also happens to be in a position to lead the way too.

Carrie Luxem is a human resources professional specializing in the restaurant industry. In 2010, she founded Restaurant HR Group where she partners with dozens of restaurateurs to take care of their greatest assets — their people. With a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, Carrie is frequently sought out for her modern, yet simple and effective advice and has been featured in Entrepreneur, Restaurant News, and Independent Restauranteur. Connect with her on social media or learn more at  

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