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The 5-90-5 Rule for Business Leadership: Lessons from Gordon Ramsay

Jump to the transcript of this video here.

→ What is the 5-90-5 rule?
→ Why is it so powerful?
What are the 3 phases of the 5-90-5 rule?
What are the benefits of this approach to leadership?
Brendan Mills: “What Gordon Ramsay can teach us about the 5-90-5 rule of leadership”


Understanding the 5-90-5 Rule

Effective leadership is crucial for business success, yet many leaders struggle with finding the right balance of involvement in their team’s projects. The 5-90-5 rule offers a practical approach to leadership that can help leaders optimise their roles and improve their team’s performance.

What is the 5-90-5 rule?

The 5-90-5 theory is a leadership approach where leaders engage in the first 5% and last 5% of a project, setting the vision and providing feedback, while the team handles the remaining 90% of the execution.

It involves leaders being actively involved at the beginning of a project to set a clear vision and goals, then stepping back to allow the team to execute the plan, and finally, re-engaging at the end to provide feedback and make sure any outcomes align with the initial vision.

Why is it so powerful?

Understanding the 5-90-5 approach can transform how you lead your team.

By having a structured process for when to step in and when to should step back, it allows business owners and leaders to stay focused on strategic oversight while employees take charge of their workload. 

What are the 3 stages of the 5-90-5 rule?

This approach breaks down leadership involvement into three key phases.

The First 5% – Setting the Vision

To begin, leaders set the foundation for success by outlining expectations and goals. In this stage:

  • Leaders set clear goals and directions.
  • They communicate the vision to their team, ensuring everyone understands the objectives.

The Middle 90% – Team Execution

The middle stage involves delegating tasks to the team and allowing them to execute without constant oversight. This is essential for team development and showcasing their capabilities. In this phase:

  • The team takes over and executes the tasks.
  • Leaders step back, allowing team members to demonstrate their skills and expertise, and the team takes over and executes the tasks.

The Final 5% – Providing Feedback

Finally, leaders review the completed work and provide feedback. This ensures that the project or product meets the standards and aligns with the original or overall vision. In this phase:

  • Leaders re-engage to review and provide feedback.
  • They ensure the final product aligns with the initial vision, offering guidance and corrections as needed.

What are the benefits of this approach? 

The 5-90-5 rule not only helps leaders stay focused on high-level responsibilities without getting bogged down in day-to-day operations, but fosters a more empowered and motivated team while doing so.

For business owners and leaders, the 5-90-5 rule helps optimise leadership focus, reduce micromanagement and increase strategic oversight:

  • Leaders can concentrate on strategic tasks rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day operations.
  • Stepping back during the middle phase reduces the tendency to micromanage.
  • Leaders maintain a high-level view, ensuring the project stays on track with the business’s goals.
  • When leaders provide regular feedback and final quality checks, it helps to maintain high standards and align results with your overall vision.

For team members, the 5-90-5 approach fosters motivation, efficiency and skill development. It also promotes accountability and innovation.

  • By clearly defining roles and expectations, your team can work more effectively and independently.
  • When tasks are delegated clearly, it helps distribute the workload efficiently. Plus, it leverages and develops individual strengths.
  • When people know what's expected and are trusted to execute, they're more likely to perform better.
  • Teams that are trusted and given responsibility are more motivated and engaged in their work. 
  • By allowing your team to handle the execution, diverse ideas and approaches can emerge, fostering innovation.

“What Gordon Ramsay can teach us about the 5-90-5 rule of leadership”

From the Founder (BM)

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During the Christmas and New Year holidays every year, I find myself, to a degree, unintentionally going down certain rabbit holes. This year, I went down a cooking path. So I'm renowned for enjoying eating; I'm not renowned for cooking.

And I don't mean cooking in terms of "you need two cups of flour and two eggs and you're going to make a chocolate cake." I'm not interested in instructional cooking. I'm talking about high-level, elite chefs and watching shows and YouTube around how they do what they do because there's a degree of mastery, there's a degree of repetition, and there's a degree of "I could get this one right, and I could get the next one completely wrong, and it's technically the exact same dish."

I watched a fair bit of Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen. If you're familiar with the concept, what I noticed about Gordon Ramsay is that he teaches everyone in there the recipes, and he has his team teach the recipes. So the structure of the show is you've got Gordon, two of his chefs that he trusts explicitly, who are previous winners of the show, and then he has this year's competitors.

What he does is he has his own recipes, which are then taught by the two chefs, which then get shared with the contestants. So they learn how to do the Beef Wellington, how to do the Scotch fillet, et cetera.

What I find fascinating is when they're in the service stage, Gordon Ramsay yells out the orders – so he gives direction, he tells the people what needs to be produced... two halibut, three Scotch fillet, one Beef Wellington; they say, "Yes, heard"; and then they time out when it's going to be completed.

He does essentially nothing in between other than motivate, take an interest, monitor things, look for glaringly obvious things, and provide advice. Not a huge degree of impact by him. They're doing the work.

And then the last part is, he checks. He knows within a fraction of a second if it's undercooked, overcooked, or correctly cooked... and then either gets them to redo it or sends it off to the customer who's waiting for the meal.

From that, mixed with a book that I read during the break, they talk about the 5-90-5 theory.

The 5-90-5 is not $5 and 95 cents or five pounds and 95 pence.

It is 5, 90, 5.

What they talk about is, to be a great leader within a business, it's good to be involved in the first 5% – give the vision, give the direction. Think Gordon Ramsay sharing his recipes with his two trusted chefs who then teach. He's done that first '5' part.

The 90, the actual cooking, the delivering, the completing the training... that is done by other people.

But then he has the finishing touch at the end, the '5' at the end.

So at the start, he sets the vision. And then at the end, he ensures that the execution is in line with the vision. And if it isn't, he provides counsel and feedback.

So for you as a business leader within your business and within your enterprise, are you doing that 5-90-5?

What we see a lot of the time - and I've been guilty of this too - is you get too stuck in the 90. This doesn't need to be a perfect time reference. It doesn't mean if you spend five minutes with somebody at the start, it means they've got 90 minutes to do whatever.

In reality, it might be you might spend five minutes with somebody, and they could then spend two weeks in the 90 phase, and then you do 10 minutes with them at the last five.

The premise, though, is you allow people to demonstrate their skills, demonstrate the value that they bring to your business in that 90 section, while you are providing feedback at the end and a vision at the start.

How good are you at the 5-90-5?

And to reinforce that point, if you feel like you're slipping away, are you being Gordon Ramsay (maybe without the profanities) in the kitchen of delivering the vision and then delivering the meal and getting someone else doing everything in between?


The 5-90-5 rule is a powerful tool for business leaders aiming to optimise their involvement in projects. By setting a clear vision, allowing the team to execute, and providing final feedback, leaders can enhance efficiency, improve team morale, and ensure high-quality outcomes. Adopting this approach can lead to sustainable business growth and success.


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