Leadership Lessons from a Bacon Cheeseburger

by Marcus Sheridan

My message today is a simple one, but I feel it’s of incredible importance to anyone who will ever be a leader or manager in this life time….In other words, this stuff applies to anyone who has eyes on this screen right now.

Upon traveling home tonight after a tremendous day of site-seeing with my wife and kids, I found myself standing in line at an A & W Restaurant with my son, attempting to order a burger for my  wife who was in the van with the rest of the clan. This is how the conversation went as I placed the order:

Me: Hi, I’d like to get a cheeseburger with ketchup, bacon, and nothing else on it.

Manager (as indicated by his name tag): Uhhm, yes, we can do that. Did you want the one you see in the picture there? (pointing to a picture of a burger with cheese, bacon, lettuce, and some other junk I couldn’t quite make out)

Me: That’s fine, but make sure it just has cheese, ketchup, and bacon please.

Manager: OK, let me see here, so you want a Cheeseburger…with just the burger…and cheese…and bacon.

Me: And ketchup (starting to wonder…)

Manager: OK, got it.

What happened next is what got my juices flowing. Because it was a ‘special order’, the manager went to the back and told the lady making the burger what was on it. Ironically, the worker repeated the order back to the manager, but what she said was wrong, to which the manager sharply replied:

“Look, I’m only going to give you orders one time, so pay attention. Plain cheeseburger with bacon and ketchup, got it?”

I literally watched this little scene in disbelief. How could a supposed manager, who couldn’t seem to comprehend a simple order from me just seconds before, be such a jerk to another employee for the exact same problem? Needless to say, when the guy handed me my little bag of food minutes later it was all I could do not to beat him over the head with it.

Luckily though, my slight smile won the battle of good vs. evil and off we went, gritting my teeth the whole way.

As I contemplated the actions of this supposed ‘manager’ during my trip home, my thoughts turned to leadership in general, and the incredible need we have not to be hypocrites of what we preach, teach, and ask of others.

Fact is, as a leader it’s easy to shout out commands, puff out our chest, and fool ourselves into actually believing we are good at what we do. But by no means is this a sign of greatness, as the best leaders and managers are always able to look at their own imperfections before rashly judging and redressing those of others.

So look to build others up. Always seek to edify. And as you go about your day today, consider the words of one of the greatest leaders this world has ever produced, Abraham Lincoln:

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Pratum October 29, 2010 at

I’m sure the irony was not wasted on you that he needed you to tell him more than once, but couldn’t put up with his employee needing the same ;-)
.-= Eric Pratum´s last blog ..Running Barefoot =-.

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Marcus Sheridan October 29, 2010 at

Yep, seems to be irony everywhere when we look at leaders in society Pratum. It’s starts with our ‘leaders’ in government and just trickles down. I seriously wonder if anyone in Washington actually practices what they preach– republican, democrat, you name it. Quite sad, really.

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Paige Jeffrey October 29, 2010 at

So, I popped over here from Men With Pens – and lo and behold, found something pretty awesome.

You’re entirely right. And I bet the irony WAS lost on him. He’s too busy thinking that he must look like a goof standing around and waiting, then taking it out on the poor cook.

Was the burger satisfying at least?
.-= Paige Jeffrey´s last blog ..Friday Link Round-up 10-29-2010 =-.

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Marcus Sheridan October 30, 2010 at

Funny you should ask Paige….Based on what my wife said, the burger was clearly nothing to write home about….

Glad you found the site…I love Men w Pens…Tremendous blog.

Hope we chat again.

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Christina Crowe ( @CashCampfire ) October 29, 2010 at

Well said, Marcus!

Hypocritical people like that are not only found in restaurants, but all over society today – in schools, families, and even relationships. It’s really a sad thing to witness, but, on the other hand, there’s really nothing you can do about it other than confront the person and remind him of his own flaws. Of course, that can result in negative energy and just isn’t wise or possible in some situations.

Christina
.-= Christina Crowe ( @CashCampfire )´s last blog ..Are You Ready to Join the Double O Club =-.

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Marcus Sheridan October 30, 2010 at

You bring up a great point Christina. I kicked myself for not saying something to this guy as he sure needed someone to tell him that his leadership hypocrisy was pretty ridiculous….but like you said, the energy that produces can be a bad thing as well….tough debate.

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Kerilyn October 30, 2010 at

I totally feel you on this. Now that I look back on it.. EVERY SINGLE manager (boss) I ever had… has this aire of high and mighty… not stopping to realize that the more they come off like that the more transparent they become. (Actually I’m about to write about that myself… grr.)
.-= Kerilyn´s last blog ..transformation =-.

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Marcus Sheridan October 30, 2010 at

The question is why is that Kerilyn? Why do so many bosses and managers have this style?? Heck, often times their behavior really isn’t who they are anyway.

Anyway, so kind of you to stop by KL….love everything you say :-)

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Lach November 1, 2010 at

Always liked this quote from Thoreau:

“It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure the fast food industry really provides an accurate microcosm of society. Pretty sure everyone with the capability leaves for greener pastures. Hence, leaders are in short supply.
.-= Lach´s last blog ..Fear Smashing 101 =-.

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Marcus Sheridan November 1, 2010 at

Dang Lach, that is a sweet quote from HDT…I think in some ways, any business can provide a microcosm of a least a part of our society, which I’m sure I saw on this occasion.

But yes, leaders are in short supply my friend…Looking forward to reading more of your excellent posts..

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