Monty Moran’s Secret Ingredient for Chipotle’s Success

7 minutes read -
Monty Moran, former co-CEO of Chipotle and trainer of Mindvalley's The Transformational Leader Quest

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When you hear the word “leadership,” what comes to mind? Strategic vision? Innovation? Determination? All three, perhaps?

Yet there’s one element that’s just as important but less frequently mentioned: love. That’s right, love. 

It may seem counterintuitive (possibly even controversial). However, it’s a philosophy that some of the world’s most transformative business leaders champion—one in particular, Monty Moran, the former co-CEO of Chipotle.

This is the man who turned a small burrito chain into a fast-food powerhouse. How? His unique leadership style, which puts emphasis on nurturing an environment where employees aren’t merely workers but valued contributors to a shared vision.

If you want something excellent in any part of your life—whether it be with your spouse, whether it be leading a company, whether it be your relationship with your friends,” he says in a podcast interview on The Mindvalley Show with Vishen, “you need to focus first on understanding love and letting it flow through you.”

It’s something he outlines compellingly in his book, Love Is Free, Guac Is Extra.

But this is more than just a catchy book title. “Love” is a deeply held philosophy that has the potential to bring about a seismic shift in what it means to lead. 

You can watch Monty Moran’s interview on The Mindvalley Show with Vishen:

Ep #005 | The Power of Love at Work: How Monty Moran Turned Chipotle Into America’s Fav Restaurant

What Is Transformational Leadership?

Imagine a company culture where everyone feels valued, appreciated, and motivated. Where the bosses are more like mentors and motivators, not just taskmasters. That, in a nutshell, is transformational leadership—a style where the end goal isn’t merely to complete a task but rather the growth and empowerment of the employees.

Great leadership empowers other people to be at their best.

— Monty Moran, trainer of Mindvalley’s The Transformational Leader Quest

Even research has shown how truly impactful this type of inspirational leadership can be. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, transformational leadership is closely tied to many indicators of effective management and business success. And that includes satisfied team members and proficient leaders.

Leadership vs. management

The thing is, there’s often confusion between these leadership skills and managerial ones. Here’s a closer look at the differences:

RoleInfluence and inspire people to follow a visionControl and direct people in line with the organization’s policies and procedures
FocusLong-term, strategic directionShort-term, tactical issues
Risk ApproachMore likely to take risks in the pursuit of innovationMore risk-averse, focused on mitigating risks to ensure stability
Change AttitudeEmbrace change and see it as an opportunityPrefer maintaining the status quo to ensure operational efficiency
Decision-makingParticipative; values input from team membersTop-down, decisions are made and passed down to subordinates
Performance MeasurementImpact, influence, and fulfillment of visionProductivity, efficiency, and achievement of specific goals
People DevelopmentEncourages personal and professional growthFocuses on developing skills related to job requirements

So whether you’re going in as a leader or a manager, the way the role is approached can significantly influence how employees and teams perform and innovate. A transformational leader seeks to inspire; a manager seeks to organize and maintain efficiency.

It’s as Monty says: “If you’re using your title to get someone to do something, that’s management, and it’s manipulation. You cannot manipulate your way to greatness.”

Harnessing Love-Driven Leadership in the Workplace

So now the elephant in the room: love. 

Love is as important in business as it is at home,” Monty explains. “Maybe more because it’s not expected in business.”

How does it fit into being a business leader? There’s a lot more to this connection than meets the eye.

As Monty suggests, love in the workplace isn’t about romantic feelings. It’s about this:

  • Showing empathy, understanding, and respect. 
  • Genuinely caring for your team members.
  • Reducing barriers and minimizing judgment.

You’ve got to love your people. Because when you love your people, they’ll say, ‘Hey wait! This guy loves me. This guy can take me to a better place and is going to take me to a better place. I’m going to follow this leader.’

— Monty Moran, trainer of Mindvalley’s The Transformational Leader Quest

This kind of love-driven relationship, according to Monty, empowers your employees to be themselves. And as such, they’re able to express their ideas without fear and contribute their unique perspectives and talents to help with business growth. This is a valuable insight—one that’s often reinforced in effective leadership classes.

After all, “what is love,” as Monty points out to Vishen in the interview, “if it’s not wanting to see someone else at their very best?

Monty Moran’s Tips on Cultivating Love-Driven Leadership for Organizational Growth

The concept of love in leadership, in theory, is one thing. But how can you implement it into your own unique style? How can you lead in order to empower others to become leaders themselves? 

Here’s what Monty Moran recommends. And not only will it inspire, but it’ll also propel organizational growth.

1. Trust your people

What’s one of the habits of successful people? Trust. 

It’s the bedrock of any relationship—even in business. In fact, data from The Great Place to Work Institute found that the best workplaces are mainly defined by trust between managers and employees.

But it’s not just about delegating people. It’s about employee motivation and empowerment. 

If we start to trust human beings to be people who want to do right [and] want to do good, we will lead them much differently,” explains Monty. “If we don’t believe that they’re fundamentally good, instead of leading them, we feel that we have to manage them.”

When you demonstrate trust in your team, you’re saying that you believe in their capabilities. And you acknowledge that their talents can make meaningful contributions to your organization.

Tip from Monty Moran:You’ve got to trust your people. People deserve to be trusted. We tend to underestimate people. Don’t underestimate people. Everyone is brilliant. Everyone has something excellent to offer. We just need to unlock that excellence by empowering them to be at their very best.”

2. Connection is fundamental

It’s no surprise that where there’s authentic love for another human being, there’s bound to be a great connection.

Love and human connection are actually what’s at the core of why I led the way I did,” says Monty. It’s this charismatic leadership quality that made him well known as the Monty Moran of Chipotle.

So many people are missing out on this because of things that are solvable, that we can cure, that we can change,” Monty adds, like our egos, like our misinterpretations, that we think that we’ve got to be great.”

But it’s not about getting along or working well together. It’s that shared sense of purpose. So much so that, according to research, employees who felt deeply “embedded” in their organizations were more likely to stay with the company and perform at higher levels.

Tip from Monty Moran:No one is a stranger except that we define them as one. … But if we start to trust that they won’t judge us, if we are the first ones to offer our vulnerability, to offer our love, to offer our presence, to offer our concern, our care, and our curiosity, if we offer that to anyone, the tendency is very strong that they will accept that and become more vulnerable themselves, become curious, let down their guard, let down their defenses. 

And what arises in that space created by that interaction is love. Whatever rises in that space is trust, warmth, connection—and that’s the way we need to be living our lives.”

3. Cultivating curiosity

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in a business setting, it fosters a culture of learning, innovation, and continuous improvement.

Curiosity is one of the most beautiful and powerful forces of love in this world,” Monty says. And a curious team is an engaged team.

According to a 2018 article in the Harvard Business Review, companies that support curiosity in the workplace do better when it comes to coming up with new ideas and adjusting to changes in the business world.

So when you encourage curiosity in your organization, your people are likely to be more…

  • Innovative,
  • Adaptable to change, and
  • Committed to their work.

And that, in a nutshell, is just great for your business.

Tip from Monty Moran:When you look at someone with compassion and care and desire and love, it is incredibly hard to resist. People can’t resist it. And so, when you go up to someone with curiosity … questions are always welcome if they come from a place of a genuine desire to understand somebody.”

Love More, Lead Better

Love in leadership isn’t just a touchy-feely concept. It can absolutely make the world—even the business world—go ‘round. And the journey of Monty Moran of Chipotle stands as a testament to the power of this approach.

But the thing is, cultivating this leadership skill requires a few things on your end: openness to rethinking conventional wisdom, eagerness to learn, and commitment to personal growth. 

So if the idea of becoming a love-driven leader intrigues you, check out Monty’s The Transformational Leader Quest on Mindvalley. You’ll discover how you can:

  • Improve how you lead
  • Create a company culture that changes things for the better
  • Genuinely encourage and inspire your team
  • Use openness about your weaknesses as a strength
  • Really boost how well your team performs

Don’t wait till you have a big title to try to help somebody,” Monty says in his sit-down with Vishen. “Don’t wait till you have a position of authority to try to do great things.”

The greatest thing you can do right now, he adds, is to demonstrate care, concern, and compassion for other people. That’s love.

And at the heart of true leadership, love reigns supreme.

Recommended Program For You

Become a leader who transforms the people around you with Monty Moran, the visionary CEO who turned Chipotle into one of the world’s most beloved restaurants

For business leaders of all levels: join former Chipotle CEO Monty Moran as you master the tools, skills, and mind shifts of Transformational Leadership - so you can lead your team and yourself towards breakthrough growth and impact.Join the program

Monty Moran

Monty Moran

Monty Moran is the trainer of Mindvalley's The Transformational Leader Quest and the former co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Prior to joining Chipotle, he was head of litigation and then managing partner and CEO at the Denver-based law firm of Messner and Reeves, LLC, which he led for ten years. Monty is a director and chairman of corporate boards and an advisor to many entrepreneurs and businesses.
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Monty Moran

Monty Moran is the trainer of Mindvalley's The Transformational Leader Quest and the former co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Prior to joining Chipotle, he was head of litigation and then managing partner and CEO at the Denver-based law firm of Messner and Reeves, LLC, which he led for ten years. Monty is a director and chairman of corporate boards and an advisor to many entrepreneurs and businesses.

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is an SEO content writer for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
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