In What Ways Is Your Work Like a Cocktail?

It’s a rare thing to chuckle your way through a book on management and leadership. But I was so entertained by The Perfect Mix: Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned as a Bartender by Helen Rothberg, that I had to remind myself to pay attention to the leadership content.

This soon-to-be-released book reads as if it’s one part short story, one part memoir, and one part you-can-do-it handbook. Throughout the book, Rothberg imparts major lessons on how to manage and lead in the midst of workplace tensions, a stalled dissertation, and even a barroom brawl.

As a professor of strategy at Marist College’s School of Management, a senior faculty member of the Academy of Competitive Intelligence, and the president of HNR Associates (a consultancy focusing on strategic change, competitive intelligence, and knowledge management), Rothberg pours out a generous combination of wisdom and experience. In The Perfect Mix, she shares so much of her own growth and thinking process that leaders and managers at any level can learn from her development — and reflect upon their own.

Stirring, With a Twist

“Bartenders develop the instinct to know what to do and when to stand back and watch; when to share what they know and when to say nothing,” says Rothberg. “That is why they give great ADVICE,” which stands for Action, Determination, Vision, Integrity, Communication, and Empathy: her recipe for leadership.

Lesson by lesson, Rothberg offers her insights and the proof of her track record, all through the lens of an up-and-coming worker who experiences, evaluates, and then delivers leadership. Each chapter ends with a drink recipe illuminating its underlying themes, as well as a closing toast to drive the point home. The book is informed by Rothberg’s research and academic background, but the lessons are clearly drawn from real-life experiences, conveyed without any of academia’s potential stuffiness or artificiality.

Served Straight Up

In one anecdote, Rothberg refers to a “scrappy” leader who knows when to hold his cards close to the vest and when to play them with a flourish. She offers the reader multiple ways to assess a situation and how to respond successfully — or, if not perfectly successfully, then how to regroup, recoup, and win in the end.

Whether you’re just starting out in your career, or you’re looking back over your professional trajectory, The Perfect Mix is an instructive and pleasurable read. It’s a particularly compelling book for anyone who has ever sat in a restaurant, people-watching, wondering about this employee or that customer. For those who hold that you have to “see it to be it,” Rothberg shows exactly how growth and development for leaders should look.

May you enjoy The Perfect Mix. Here’s to your reading satisfaction, and your leadership success!

Onward and upward,


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