Crucibles of Leadership: Hell’s Kitchen and Gordon Ramsey

Okay a little diversion from our Tom Peters series…

Last night I was watching a DVR’d episode of Hell’s Kitchen. For some reason I really like this show. Maybe it is my passion for cooking, I do dream of being a chef.


After the show ended I realized that despite my love of the culinary arts, the real reason I like this show is very different. I like it because of what Chef Ramsey is doing to the contestants. He is creating a hyper-intense environment in which the contestants must dig deep inside to find who they are and whether they can perform under the intense pressure and withering criticism of a demanding leader. Perform or go home and spend a lifetime wondering “what if”.


Ya, Chef Ramsey is essentially a leadership development expert creating what Bennis and Thomas call in their book, Geeks and Geezers, a Crucible. He has effectively created an environment which will test the aspiring chefs with fire (literally) and refine them. Ultimately crucible moments are the defining experiences in the development of an aspiring leader. For Ramsey to create this for them is a gift that they will undoubtedly look back fondly on. Of course some counseling and time to heal the stinging wounds of criticism would also be prescribed.


Crucibles are critically important for leaders. They offer us a time to discover how resilient we truly are. They offer us a time of refinement, to burn away selfishness and ego. They offer us a chance to reach our leadership potential. After all any monkey can lead when times are good, but it takes a tested leader when adversity is the forecast of the day.


So where is your crucible? Have you felt its burning fire? Has our economy thrust you into one?


How are your leading yourself through the fire?


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