The granddaughter and daughter of Michelin starred chefs, Anne-Sophie Pic has upheld the family tradition with the three stars she won in 2007. In the kitchen she juggles personal inspiration with a collaborative approach.
Leaders League. Social networks, shared spaces, interactive tools…has collective leadership stolen a march on individual leadership?
Anne-Sophie Pic. In the job I have as a chef, we must take into account this revolution, even if our activity is not among the most innovative in this area. I think that collective leadership is complimentary to individual leadership. The daily task I have is managing creativity.
Leaders League. Is the immense success of your cuisine and restaurants down to individual leadership, collective leadership, or a blend of both?
A-S.P. It’s the fruits of both. I am a creative person and I need to think about what I cook, to start the creative process on my own, in general. Once I have an idea, I go and consult my teams so the idea can take shape. It is, in fact an issue of managing creativity: taking an idea and implementing it, going from creativity to innovation. I set a lot of store by collective intelligence and always try to tear down the walls between different departments. A successful endeavor in a restaurant is really the fruit of complimentary between cooking staff, waiting teams and hosts, as much as the food, strictly speaking.
Leaders League. Are collective leadership and individual leadership complimentary?
A-S.P. They are not mutually exclusive. I liken my management role to that of an orchestra conductor: organize, guide, but also encourage interaction between members of my team. For example, I have just redone my kitchen. I wanted an island around which all stations could be assembled, meat, fish, sauce etc. Voilà, that’s one way of thinking of the tools of work as an instrument of convergence.
Leaders League. What are the indispensible qualities for creating collective leadership?
A-S.P. You need to know how to communicate a vision, create a climate where energy, initiative and innovation thrive and provide the conditions for collective intelligence…a tall order I know! Happily I am not the only one in this adventure. My husband, David Sinapian, is the brains of the operation. He understood some time ago the need to increase the size of our teams, and the crucial role that trust plays in encouraging a spirit of initiative.
Leaders League. How does a chef see their role in a collective leadership scenario?
A-S.P. For my part, I organize brainstorming sessions. These are special occasions where we temporarily shut down the operation of the company to focus on creativity. Of course, I give the themes and instructions to my teams before these sessions.
Leaders League. If everybody is boss, does that mean no one is boss?
A-S.P. Once again I will use the example of the conductor. He creates the conditions for each musician to play their part within the necessary framework of the orchestra, because the product is a collective one. But without him the combined work could not be produced. He has the job of guide, he gives direction. It’s the same in the kitchen - the essence of our work is collective. Everyone has their part to play. Nevertheless they are not all bosses. Everyone has the opportunity to express themselves and grow, which is not exactly the same thing.
Leaders League. Is collective leadership a prerequisite condition for guaranteeing the long-term success of a kitchen?
A-S.P. Yes, I think so. I think the flat model is replacing the hierarchical one, skills are replacing status and we must encourage risk taking and initiative. By trial and error we learn together to change the way of working in a company. And little by little, things change.
Translated from French by Simon Mc Geady
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