Chipotle’s Leadership Philosophy from a Crew Member’s Perspective

Chipotle’s Leadership Philosophy from a Crew Member’s Perspective

Back in 2015, I got a job at Chipotle Mexican Grill as a crew member. I was just looking for a part-time job to save up some cash and to score some free burritos. And I definitely didn’t expect to learn anything too important – it’s just a part-time job, right? I was wrong. Chipotle’s philosophy of management and leadership is to empower their employees to achieve high standards in order to become “top performers”. This basically means that Chipotle wants to give their employees the ability to make choices – choices that will overall benefit the organization from the lowest level.

As a crew member, there weren’t a whole lot of truly impactful decisions I could have made. Switching out the rice when it got stale, setting up the fryer when we were running low on chips, and sneaking in an extra bit of steak onto my friend’s burrito were pretty much the brunt of my decision-making capabilities. But this is what management is looking for in order to promote. Chipotle almost never hires management positions – everything is internal. Sure, the whole empowerment thing may be a way to relieve some work off of the managers, but the truth is that I felt good about making all these little decisions on my own.

Some company managers have the problematic need to micro-manage, and that may be a big reason as to why people quit that particular company. Empowering your employees makes them independent, which in turn lets each of them develop differently. Maybe you use your empowerment to make sure that the food on the line is always hot and fresh. Maybe you use it to provide unrivaled customer service. Of course, Chipotle intends for you to eventually be good at everything, but everyone has their own preferences and talents.


Applying Chipotle’s Philosophies as a Leader

I picked up the job at Chipotle around the same time that I became the President of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) over at CSU Fullerton. Admittedly, the philosophies I carried from Chipotle over to FBLA turned out to be quite effective. By empowering my team, I got a huge variety of flavors of each of their individual values, strengths, and passions. This not only gave the organization ideological diversity, but it also provided a space where everyone in the organization felt comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas. More on this in a later post.

That’s one of the most important things I learned about leadership from Chipotle and FBLA – everyone has their own style. Some people are better at operational leadership, others are better at relationship-based leadership. And some people are able to guide any kind of team in any situation. The best way that you can help your people find their style is by empowering them. Give them the ability to make choices. As Ralph Nader said, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”


Written by: Juan Juy

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