Last week my wife and I were waiting at the bar for our table to be available at a favorite Jersey Shore eatery. While sipping our glasses of wine, Jimmy the bartender says, “…Want to check out this new cocktail I’ve been working on? We said “Sure,” and he poured each of us a small glass to sample and critique his new creation. After a sip or two, we each puckered our lips and shook our heads side to side. My wife and I agreed, “Not for us…too sweet and medicinal.”
Jimmy thanked us for being guinea pigs and said his mix was a work in progress as he was trying to create a new drink for a local craft cocktail competition. He finished with, “I read it took Edison ten-thousand combinations before he developed the incandescent light bulb. This is only my twentieth iteration, so it’s back to the drawing board for me. I’m sure I’ll have a winning combination in a week or two.
Even though we did not enjoy his new concoction, we applauded his creativity and optimism. Then my light bulb went on: A year ago I wrote about how another bartender got me thinking about how his qualities mirrored those of a good CEO. Based on this new encounter with Jimmy, I amend this list of common qualities to include:
Good CEOs and Bartenders are creative types. Both embrace their own creativity and inspire it in others. In a study by IBM, over 1,500 CEOs, from 60 countries and cutting across different 33 industries, showed that creativity outranked integrity, global thinking and dedication as the most important leadership quality. Whether developing a new cocktail recipe or a new business model, creativity is a key element of being a successful leader.
Good CEOs and Bartenders are optimists. This view of the world is inspiring to others and brings out the best in its possessor. Who would follow a leader who says, “I don’t think we can do that.” Or what if General MacArthur said, “I’m not sure if I shall return.” Optimism isn’t Pollyannaism. Rather it’s a view of the world through the eyes of agency, confidence and hope. Just as MacArthur did return, I’m confident Jimmy will create a winning cocktail.
These new discoveries are two more qualities of leadership that good bartenders and CEOs share. In case you missed it first time around, here’s the list of the original five qualities:
- Good CEOs and Bartenders are “People” people: Both enjoy being around others and are careful, active listeners. They are passionate about their work and do what they do with flair. Both have the ability to influence your decisions and have an impact on your life. Whether cut off by your barkeep or fired by Lloyd Blankfein, they have the final say when you are in their house.
- Good CEOs and Bartenders have a commanding presence. Well groomed, well spoken and well dressed in a uniform appropriate for their roles, each conveys a blend of charm, grace, authority and authenticity. Whether it’s Tom Cruise in Cocktail or Sir Richard Branson at a board meeting, you know who’s in charge.
- Good CEOs and Bartenders use proven recipes. Being creative and well trained in their respective fields, each adds their own unique touches. Knowing when to resist reinventing the wheel, the gin martini or GAAP Accounting has allowed leaders to focus their attention on creating craft cocktail culture or Six Sigma supply chain management.
- Good CEOs and Bartenders use quality ingredients in their recipes for success. Top shelf spirits, top shelf technology, top shelf training, top shelf people and top shelf processes all contribute to a culture of quality. Whether a Blood Orange Cosmo or a Honda Civic, the output of their respective work makes a great presentation. Both know that quality products and superior service will keep customers coming back for more.
- Good CEOs and Bartenders have stamina. Being good at anything take a lot of hard work. Long days and long nights, engaging multiple constituencies, balancing priorities, working with limited resources, directing the efforts of others, dealing with situations beyond one’s control, maintaining a challenging schedule and keeping an eye on finances take a lot of energy. Whether standing on your feet night after night, or standing in front of shareholders year after year, the best ones have physical powerplants that match their drive and creativity.
The more I look at what makes disparate people successful, the more common threads I see. What qualities of leadership do you embrace to be successful in this take-no-prisoners, Mach 5 world?
Have I left anything out? I’d love to hear from you.