Reflections on Leadership: Great Leaders Are Great People First

Weekly Inspiration

Great Leaders Are Great People First

This week’s Reflections includes another story based in a restaurant. I seem to tell a lot of stories that are based in restaurants so I guess you see where my priorities are!

My wife and I enjoy a restaurant in our German Village neighborhood called Valter’s at the Maennerchor. Valter’s is a German style restaurant located in a historic building that is home to a German singing society and is full of beautiful architecture and memorabilia. The food and drinks are excellent and some of the best in the neighborhood.

Best of all the restaurant is owned by Valter!

Valter is an Albanian immigrant and has been active in the German Village restaurant scene for many years. In fact, a few months ago, he told somebody he has been cooking for me for more than 15 years. That is scary because there is no way I am that old.

I love Valter because he is a great chef, he works so hard in his multiple business ventures and is tirelessly focused on quality and his customers. But there is more to it than that. Valter is an amazing person!

Here is a story that exemplifies why I say that – easily my favorite Valter moment….

One night we were eating at Valter’s and he came up to us and said hello and we talked for a bit. Then Valter stopped by another table where there was a husband and wife with a couple of kids who were just about to leave after they had paid their bill. Valter was talking to them and found out that they were staying at the Ronald McDonald House while one of their kids was receiving medical treatment at Children’s Hospital. Valter asked them to wait there for a minute and went inside for a minute before re-emerging. He walked up to the family and handed them back all of the money they had just paid for their meal. He told them that their money is no good at his restaurant and asked if there is anything else he could bring them.

I was talking to Valter about this story just the other day and he remembered it like it was yesterday. He told me “Tony, I would be embarrassed to take their money while they are going through such a tough time.”

This was a very poignant moment for me. Valter would rather take a loss and be a compassionate human being than to make a profit from these customers. It was an amazing gesture and a sign of just how amazing of a person and a leader Valter is.

Great leaders know that we are all human beings first. As such, they make sure to put their people first before the needs of the day. There will always be plenty of work to do, there will always be new issues, there will always be stuff. But you don’t always get a second chance to be a caring and compassionate human being!

Even more impressive are the greatest leaders. They also put the humanity needs of their customers ahead of their own needs, even if this isn’t the most profitable decision. By genuinely putting the people first instead of just chasing the money you have a chance to build positive long-term relationships with your customers. So it makes good business sense in addition to having the opportunity to be a great person…. Plus you may be able to build some good karma too!

Call to Action: do at least one thing today to show compassion and genuine concern and for your team, your customers or your partners. Then do the same tomorrow and the next day and every day after that. Maybe we can all unlock our inner Valter and make the world a better place!

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

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