Lead With Humility — Leadership Lessons From “The Bear”

John Hartley
5 min readJul 7, 2022
It’s not easy being a new leader in any environment, let alone a failing restaurant (The Bear from FX)

“The Bear” on FX/Hulu paints an anxiety-inducing picture of what it’s like to work in a restaurant and centers around fictional fine-dining chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto. Carmy takes over his late brother’s grungy, failing Chicago restaurant and is determined to make it a success.

The Bear is full of learnings for organizational structure and systems, and also displays some of the most realistic inter-team dynamics I’ve seen in a show without being corny or cute.

Don’t tout your accolades when you first arrive

  • Chef De Cuisine at one of the fanciest New York Restaurants
  • Food and Wine Best New Chef
  • James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef
  • Chef at Noma, a 3-star Michelin Restaurant in Denmark

One of those accomplishments alone would be impressive enough, but Carmy achieved them all before he turned 30. Yet he mentions none of it when coming into The Beef. Sure, people know, but he doesn’t talk about it.

He has no control over how others in the kitchen will perceive him, but he makes clear that those things don’t mean much to him if his current kitchen isn’t running successfully. While he may yell about his creature comforts (dull knives, not being able to find pots, stations being a mess), those are all expectations he has for his fellow chefs in this kitchen.

Carmy doesn’t tout his accolades but he makes a damn delicious beef sandwich that no one can deny is delicious, even if they begrudge him a bit. They respect his skills because they can see the outcome, regardless of his resumé.

Richie angrily eating the best beef sandwich he’s ever had (The Bear from FX)

Lesson: Be humble when you enter a new environment. The ecosystem existed before you were there, so make no presumptions that you understand the ins and outs of how things work. That said, use your past success to examine the landscape, and make assessments through that lens.

Lead by doing, and as you help others succeed and have success yourself, others will learn what it is that makes you special.

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John Hartley

Engineering leader with a passion for building and growing teams. Writing about leadership and management in the tech industry. Director of Eng @ Curology