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Leading the Way Podcast: Doug Brooks, Former CEO/Chairman, Brinker International

Brinker International, one of the world’s leading casual dining restaurant companies with well-known brands such as Maggiano’s and Chili’s, continues to thrive. Doug Brooks, Former CEO and Chairman, explains how the Dallas-based company honors the Brinker legacy.  Doug shares what it was like working with the legendary restaurateur Norman Brinker and how Norman transformed the organization and positively impacted people’s careers by teaching them about business and leadership.  

In this week’s edition of Leading the Way, we talk about succession planning, the strategies and challenges leaders face during the process, and what it takes to develop great leaders. Generously providing insightful business advice, Doug opens up about culture, transparency, the importance of listening and the power of feedback. We discuss the impact technology has on the restaurant industry, the future of the dining experience and how millennials are driving the digitization of customer focus.  

A company with a heart, a leader with a passion, and a mission with a purpose, Brooks shares the inspiring story of how they raised $90 million to create the Chili’s Care Center at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  

A bountiful menu of tasty nuggets of wisdom awaits you in this episode of Leading the Way.  

Key Soundbites

  • On transparency – “I think vulnerable leaders create trust. When you can stand onstage and admit your weaknesses and admit mistakes you made, ask others to help you as I did when I became COO. I think that kind of transparency in leadership is the ultimate in earning respect.”  
  • On listening – “Norman said the greatest leaders had two particular skills that he was always envious of and tried to emulate, and one was being a great listener. The more you listen, the more you learn. The essence of being a great listener is every time you think you’re supposed to answer the question, you may want to check with the people you’re talking to. They may really know more about the question than you give them credit for.”
  • On feedback - “Norman Brinker used to be a tough guy who would sit down with you and give you constructive feedback. But I always knew when I walked away that he was trying to develop me. He had my best interests at heart. And I didn’t want to let him down. Think that’s the most important thing about developing other leaders in the company.”  
  • On leadership – “What I learned was how important it was to treat people with respect, no matter who you are in the organization. Coming up with cultural guideposts – the beliefs, the passions – I think that’s the most important thing in leadership, is that everyone has the same results you’re looking at, the same beliefs, they’re trying to behave and lead people using the same language and terminology.”  
  • On succession planning - “When someone we feel has potential in the organization, whatever department or area they’re in, we then put them on a path to start working in other departments so that they understand the total business, because it’s complicated. You’re also trying to teach them about the people part of leadership, because it takes both.”  

About Leading the Way

Leading the Way is a weekly radio show and podcast series that highlights influential business leaders and leading people practices from i4cp. Co-hosted by Emmy award-winning television anchor and radio host, Scott Murray, and i4cp’s Angel Carlton, the show features interviews with respected business leaders from the world of business, sports, entertainment, healthcare and philanthropy.  

The show airs live every Sunday at 4 pm CT on KLIF 570 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, the global audience is invited to listen live on   and the weekly podcast debuts on iTunes or Google Play and the i4cp website the following week.