Want Great Leaders? Challenge them to do Great Things

In 2001, Blue Plate Catering launched a $10 million dollar project to build a high-profile Chicago restaurant. The project alone would double what the company was worth – if they could succeed. Without money in the bank or investors, it was a big risk.

So why did CEO Jim Horan proceed? He moved forward in part because it was an opportunity to develop his leaders. Leadership is sometimes best learned by trial. Hear how Blue Plate used this risky investment to develop strong leaders in this short video.

Watch this video with your senior leadership team, then use the questions below to launch a discussion on your company’s leadership development processes.    

Discussion Guide

CEO Jim Horan believes in giving challenges and allowing risks as a way to develop a competent and fire-tested leadership team. “It’s our job not to get in people’s way,” he says.

With this in mind, discuss the video with your team.

  • Ask each executive to write a one sentence summary of his or her leadership development philosophy. Share these sentences, and ask each person to give an example of one team member they are guiding through the development process.
  •  What tolerance for risk does your company have? In your meeting, draw a quick organizational chart: what amount of risk (in dollars or in time invested) is allowed at each level of the chart? Could you tolerate more risk, as a way of granting independence and training leaders for bigger opportunities?
  • Think of a time when you were handed a project that seemed bigger than your capacity or resources. How did you proceed? What strategies, skills, or networks helped you complete the project? What were the results?

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