Like People Like Priest: A Lesson from Chef Robert Irvine

The Thursday feature of the Worldly Saints blog will pull a current event and look at it from the perspective of a Christian world view. There is no guarantee we will comment on the most “popular” or “biggest story” out there, but we will take a story that is worth considering.

Admittedly, today’s post probably doesn’t technically fall under the category of a recent event. Or better yet, most of you reading this would not classify what I am going to refer to as a recent event in the news. But technically, it was something that happened last night – or at least I saw it last night.

Let me explain.

One of my favorite shows to watch is Restaurant Impossible. This show is hosted on The Food Network. The essential “plot” for each show is this: Robert Irvine, who is a well accomplished chef and restaurant owner, is given a budget of $10,000 and two days to go into a failing restaurant and seek to help restore it to being a profitable business.

As you can imagine, Chef Irvine gets some pretty down-and-out assignments. Most of the time, he comes into a restaurant and the food is awful or the place is a pig sty or the owner has no idea how to run a business or the employees are stealing food or money or all of the above. The restaurants Chef Irvine comes to are always failing and are often days or months away from shutting down their business permanently. So his mission is to locate the problem(s) they are failing, inform or convince the owner of those reasons, teach that owner how to correct them, redesign their restaurant and then “turn them loose.”

Irvine RobertOne of the my favorite reasons I love watching the show is because of the many poor leadership you see form the owners and Chef Irvine’s equipping of the owner to be a more effective leader. Most of the time, that is the core issue: poor leadership.

Last night, Andrea and I were watching Chef Irvine tackle the problems of Brady’s Seafood in Hueytown, Alabama. Their problems were various: terrible food, unclean facility, bacteria-filled kitchen, disrespectful employees, and an owner who had given up on the restaurant.

It didn’t take Chef Irvine long to see the core issue not being addressed: if the owner didn’t want the restaurant to succeed, no one else would. In other words, if you don’t want to excel in something as a leader, don’t ever expect your followers to excel in that area.

That is such a critical issue in leadership. People will only go as far as their leaders. They will only seek the same level of holiness as their leaders. They will only reach to the same level as their leaders are willing to go. Oswald Sanders writes in his book Spiritual Leadership, “We can lead others only as far along the road as we ourselves have traveled. Merely pointing the way in not enough. If we are not walking, then no one can be following, and we are not leading anyone.”

Hosea 4:9 uses the phrase “like people, like priest.”

Keep that in mind for those of you who are in leadership positions. Don’t ever expect your people to go to a place you are not willing to go. Don’t ask or beg your people to reach somewhere you aren’t willing to reach. Master what you want your people to master.


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