What 18-year-old Calum Smith Taught George Calombaris About Leadership
Posted on June 14, 2017

Masterchef is one of the few shows that our whole family enjoys and it is Masterful (excuse the pun)!

I love that it is all about seeing ordinary people learning and growing and doing so in a collaborative environment despite being in a competition. My son loves the food and the people. I’m fascinated by the leadership elements.

For those of you who don’t watch Masterchef, every Wednesday night is the team challenge. The contestants are put into groups to cook – often for large groups of people under time pressure. They each elect a captain and the losing group goes into the elimination round the next day.

One of the contestants of Masterchef 2017 is 18-year-old Callum Smith. He is clearly a very talented cook with a great future ahead of him. Last week, Callum was the leader of the blue team and the task was to prepare a vegetarian feast for meat eaters.

Initially, Callum came across as uncertain and unable to make decisions. He let each of the team members prepare their own dish and had a relatively ‘hands-off’ approach. There were multiple quotes from team members that Callum was not very noisy. Ray (the weakest participant left is the completion) was working on a dish called carrot surprise which was portrayed as being a weak link in the cook-off and would risk the whole team going into elimination the next day. (I had to agree that any dish comprising of grated carrot call ‘carrot surprise’ sounded like a dud?) On the other team, 25-year-old Samual, who is the captain of the green team, seemed confident and ‘in control’.

Halfway through the completion, George Calombaris (a favourite with my son – we are off to his restraurant this weekend to celebrate my son’s birthday to one of his restraurants) took Callum aside to give him a pep talk. You have to take control. You’re the leader. You’re in charge. You should be really like, right now, you should be pushing them.” Callum’s reflection was, “George tells me, ‘you have to take control and push the team.’ My approach is a little bit different. I’m not going to scream and shout. That is just not my style. I get where the judges are coming from but I still want to trial my own way of captaining and see how it pans out.’ As the cook-off progressed, Callum could be heard to say, “I think it needs more salt but what do you think?” He tasted. He supported.

Guess what?  CALLUM’s team WON!

Even Ray’s ‘carrot surprise’ was a hit with the judges. Callum just let him get on with the job. He trusted him to do the job. And let’s face it, is it really such a surprise that the team performed better  when they were not yelled at, flustered and stressed? That they did perform better when trusted and supported to get on with the job?

And as a post-script, the following night, the captain of the Green team (who followed the Masterchef leadership formula of lots of noise to ‘push people’) was eliminated from the competition. Proof yet again that yelling and pushing people is far less effective than setting a clear direction, letting people get on with the job and providing support.

I hope George watched the show!

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