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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