I frequently ask powerful leaders whom I meet about their views on leadership, both in a professional and personal context (actually, it’s hard to separate the two). A while back I asked a friend who was a Navy Admiral how he evaluated leadership characteristics in people. Without any delay, he said “I like to go to lunch or dinner with them and watch how they interact with the waiter.”
He explained that as a senior officer, he had a pretty good idea of how people were going to treat him, but he was interested to see how they treated people who had no influence on their future. What a great way to see what someone is really made of.
When I’m evaluating whether or not to do business with someone, I can learn so much more about who they really are if I see them in a relaxed, unguarded social setting. Whether it’s on the golf course, at an airline ticket counter when a flight is delayed or canceled, or in line at a grocery store, we all reveal the most when we think there is the least at stake.