Here in Ann Arbor, there is a company called Zingerman’s that is responsible for quite a number of food opportunities. From restaurants, to a gourmet shop, a deli, a coffee roasting emporium, a dairy shop (cheese and ice cream), a bake shop, a farm, and baking classes. Oh, and management courses. Yes, the place that began as a little gourmet shop and deli is also famous for its leadership courses and books (books which are carefully sold in select places, such as ZingTRAIN). I finally grabbed one of their books and began reading it.

More specifically, I grabbed, “Guide to Good Leading, Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader” by Ari Weinzwig, one of the founders of Zingerman’s. Some or all of the books in this series have ended up on the New York Times bestseller list and, as far as I can find, to good reviews. One review specifically pointed-out that this series is written by someone who has made his business successful using these principals for thirty years, now (2017 is the 30th anniversary of Zingerman’s).

First of all, the style of the book made is easy to read. Second of all, it was like being in some kind of dream – like reading about a mythical world where employers want their employees to be happy (which, apparently, makes them more productive which, by the way, is good for business). Except, of course, that Zingerman’s actually does exist. Lastly, the additional stories added to the leadership principles helps illustrate how they affect employees and customers.

On a slightly different topic, I will mention that, in recent discussions with potential customers, I have been asked to give details about what makes me happy when I’m working – what type of work do I enjoy the most, for example. I suspect that none of the people I spoke with would know about the Zingerman’s books and courses, so possibly there is a trend toward this.

Basically, the two books about leadership go through the leadership principles that have made Zingerman’s successful. If you want to hone your leadership skills, grabbing either of these books and at least skimming through the ideas is an easy start to that.

Should we strive for happiness at work? I’m not certain but here’s a quote by another successful Michigan business owner who was also thought to be unconventional and who also seems to think work shouldn’t be drudgery: from Gwen Frostic, “Dreams without work are fantasy. Work without dreams is drudgery.”

Most of us have no real control over our work environment past being as professional with each other as we can be. For those who have that power, they probably are caught-up in all the work they have to do or possibly aren’t interested in leading any other way than they already know how – they might not want to know any other way. On the other hand, most of us do occasionally have leadership positions. For example, I’m occasionally a team lead for one team or another. My point is that most of us do need some amount of leadership skills, at one point or another.

For those leaders who belittle the team members, think it’s perfectly fine to be somewhat abusive to them, and who I suspect are pretty miserable, as well, it’s a good reminder to myself what I DON’T want to do as a leader, but that’s just my personal style to be trying to motivate people over punishing them. So, even these are learning experiences. And, by the way, the author’s point about happy people being productive isn’t so hard to see. When people spend their time trying to save their behinds, hiding from the boss and such, that is definitely NOT time they’re spending working.

Note: While Zingerman’s isn’t the size of the automakers around here, it’s not tiny, either. It’s big-enough that I’m always surprised to see Ari Weinzweig in one of his businesses, but it’s my understanding that he rotates through them to stay on top of what’s going on with them. One day, I had a brief conversation with him as he was sitting next to the thermal coffee pot and I was the person who got air instead of coffee when I brought my mug to it. I vaguely think we said “good morning” to each other and that, when the pot spluttered, he noticed that and made things right for me so that I could fill my mug. When I say “made things right” I mean that he might have been the person who exchanged the pot or possibly just made it happen but, getting my coffee was really all I was paying attention to, at that moment. My point, here, is that Ari Weinzweig seems to remain pretty hands-on with the business.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

4 Thoughts to “Being a Better Leader by Ari Weinzweig”

  1. Nancy Ridenhour

    Gloria, This is great! I have shared it on Linkedin and want to read the books. This works with my SCORE work with companies starting up and already in business. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nancy, I had forgotten to put the official link to buy the books and materials, which is through ZingTRAIN. While some books can be found on Amazon, it is not one of the outlets for these books and I want to give the link to ZingTRAIN in case anyone wanted to see the entire series. The link is now both in the actual post, but I’ll include it in this comment, too:

  3. For readers wanting to know more about SCORE, here is a previous blog post I made about it:

  4. From my point of view, every job in a company is an important and vital job or the job function simply does not need to exist. Everything for a business ultimately revolves around serving clients. So if there is a job going unfilled, I will jump in myself and fill the need as best that I can. Others in my company do the same. We must all wear lots of hats.

    Not everyone is cut out to work this way and in a small company, that way is pretty much SOP. With regard to leadership, I think that is driven by the need to serve our clients. We have to not only meet the stated requirements but look beyond to requirements that have not yet been stated and then engineer systems and processes so that we can fill needs when the client’s demands call. This is a long term process and we try to get it right but we are not perfect but we all keep trying.

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