The Critical Three: Traits of High Performing Restaurant Executives

David Mansbach |

I was having dinner with a new client last week who is looking to recruit an executive from the outside.  As the main course was served he asked the following question of me, “What one characteristic or trait is required to be successful within the chain restaurant industry?”  This was a damn good question and I needed time to think about it.

Serving as an executive recruitment consultant for the past 15 years, I have gained access to a diverse group of senior leaders.  My work has allowed me admittance to this elite crowd, and I am fortunate to have developed strong personal and professional relationships with many of these individuals.  After reflecting on the question, I concluded that there is no one ingredient but rather a healthy mix of what I deem as the Critical Three.

The Critical Three

It does not matter if you are a Chief Executive Officer or a Unit General Manager; as I think back to all of the high performers I have encountered they all exhibit the Critical Three.


  • Humility (the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people)
  • Self-awareness (an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality)
  • Resilience (the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens)

At first glance you review the definitions of the traits above (pulled right from the dictionary) and you think – this is all it takes?  I will leave you with a scenario:

You are a Chief Operating Officer slated to be the next Chief Executive Officer of your organization.  Macro-economic trends force the board to change direction of the company and hire a new CEO from the outside.

Do you have the ability to assess your strengths and weaknesses against current business trends and recognize the reasoning behind the decision (self-awareness)?

Can you turn this short-term negative into a long-term positive (resilience)?

Do you have the ability to recognize the strengths of the new CEO and leverage them as a mentor (humility)?

If you don’t exhibit the Critical Three, and many don’t, you will be yet another casualty of average.