Does Your Leadership Style Pass The Taco Bell Open Table Test?

Recently, Taco Bell announced that it is working with Open Table to invite 32 people inside their Irvine, California test kitchen to sample the chain’s “most experimental fare.”

It is a unique opportunity for the public to look behind the scenes to see how the brand has come up with some of its hottest new menu items such as the Doritos® Taco Bell.

According to Taco Bell Chief Food Officer, Liz Matthews, the intention is to give their biggest fans an experience they will never forget.

So what does this have to do with your leadership style?

Taco Bell’s willingness to open up their test kitchen to the outside world is emblematic of one of the Three T’s for identifying a real leader; someone with whom you can work and follow with confidence.

I am talking about transparency.

A leader today, more than ever, needs to be an “open book” so their people understand their expectations and know what goes on behind the scenes. In fact, in my experience, the best leaders are transparent and are willing to share information, just as Taco Bell is ready to share the secrets behind the development of its most popular foods.

However, there are two more T’s to cross beyond transparency before you know if you are the best leader you can be for your employees.


When it comes to authentic leadership, you need to be willing to open up both personally and professionally. You want to be a leader who is not afraid to share your feelings and tell it like it is.

Here is a common challenge when leaders overextend themselves.  I was chatting with Susan, CFO of a Fortune 100 company, who shared her challenges in time management.  Because she had not established boundaries, people would come into her office throughout the day and unknowingly overstay their welcome.  She finally admitted to them that when they do this, she would fall behind in her responsibilities and therefore became impatient. She realized that people are not “mind readers” so being transparent about her feelings was key.  Once she told them the truth – Poof! – End of the issue. Now people respect her time.


I remember being told very early on in my career that “people will not give you their trust until you earn it.”

Without transparency and truth, trust is an unreachable goal.

Are you delivering on your commitments? Do you back up your words with concrete actions? Are you consistent with how you deal with all employees across the board, no favorites or special treatments? Do you listen with the intention to understand different perspectives rather than judge?

To be an effective leader, a good boss knows that they must both gain and reinforce trust. If you build a track record based on transparency and truth, then you earn the loyalty of your people and inspire them to walk an extra mile.

The Taco Bell Test

Just as Taco Bell is launching an Open Table venue through which it can engage their customers, leaders need to be open and honest (minus private information that is not necessary for public knowledge).

When you are willing to be transparent, truthful and trustworthy in your organization, you can achieve your full potential with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.


 “When trust is an issue, it means you need to bring things more into the light and be transparent, not go further into the dark and be cloudy.”

One thought on “Does Your Leadership Style Pass The Taco Bell Open Table Test?

  1. Roz – another excellent post. It is super hard to be vulnerable and humble when you are “the leader”. There seems to be still the classic ” the boss knows best” mental model out there. Willingness to admit failure, being humber when you don’t know the answer, and transparency are hard in today’s highly competitive and political workplaces.

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