Clarence Otis is the CEO of Darden Restaurants–this is an impressive chain of such well known establishments as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, and Longhorn Steakhouse in the U.S. Otis was interviewed for the Herald Tribune last week about some critical aspects of good leadership–here are some highlights worth pondering.
What is the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned? It’s this notion that leaders think about others first. They think about the people who are on the team, trying to help them get the job done.
How do you hire people? The most important thing to me is, you want to see someone who has passion, who really gets excited about the world around them and has drive. Being comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty is a trait I look for, because those folks are pretty comfortable with diversity–they are looking as much for the opportunity that’s inherent in that as they are for the risk.
Are there things that, as a leader or manager, you’ve learned to do less of over time? I’d say probably less wordsmithing, less massaging of the work product, more thinking, more reflecting.
Any thoughts on how language is used in the business world? I do think language is important in leadership, and it’s critically important in oral communication. It’s worth thinking about exactly how you’re going to say something. It’s important for focusing people. It’s important for inspiring them. It’s important for directing them. The more senior you are the more important it is–because your voice is amplified.
What has surprised you the most about the top job? I would say it’s how amplified everything that you say or do is. You have to be very intentional about what you say and do. If not, then something that was just thinking out loud, some thought you had, some “what if” becomes a directive, even though 10 seconds later in your own mind you dismissed it.
What would you like business schools to teach more of, or less of? I didn’t go to business school; I went to law school. But my sense is the one thing law school does that business school could do more of is provide you with a social context, the broader context within which business operates. I think it would be interesting for business school students to learn constituional law and comparative law. I think the dialogue between the business community and the civic community is hampered by the gap.
Interesting insights from a very successful CEO and company.