THE BOSS MAN, JEFF OKITA
What Makes The Unsure Founder of Six Taste and Delta Omicron Zeta a Stand Out Leader
This week I had the pleasure of having dinner with Jeff Okita. I first met Jeff through Delta Omicron Zeta, the only co-ed leadership fraternity to ever exist. Jeff and six other rambunctious over-achievers released the organization onto USC circa 2008. Since I met Jeff in 2009, I have admired him for his poise, judgment, and overall boss-ness. For real, Jeff actually is a boss; he started his own Los Angeles food touring business right out of college. It’s called Six Taste, and it beats the pants off other LA foodie hangouts like Urth Caffe, Wurstekuche, and Father’s Office on Yelp. (And by the pants, I mean by a whole star).
During our dinner, I had the unique opportunity to peek into Jeff’s ongoing process of progress. For Jeff this starts with analyzing how he allots his time. Next, he attempts to understand what he wants most out of life. Finally, he figures out how to change his routine in order to satisfy these innermost ambitions.
An inspiration? I’d say so.
But Jeff doesn’t see it this way. He denounces his own obsession with watching TV shows, reading books, and playing video games. He feels guilty about his itch to leave old ventures for new ones. He even shared that his girlfriend Celeste, who is as rowdy as he is reserved, fears that his uncanny ability to analyze situations with complete ration may be slightly sociopathic.
On the contraire, when I learned more about the way Jeff thinks, I concluded that he is not a sociopath nor a commitment-fobe but indeed an impressive leader.
“I just want to do something great,” he told me, frustrated. “I just don’t know what that is yet.”
Let me break it down for you, MDA 365 style, just a few reasons why Jeff Okita is a boss, or in laymen’s terms, a stand out leader.
Jeff is future oriented.
“I never think about the past,” he said to me. “I’m okay as long as I am moving forward, even if I find out that I need to turn around and go in the opposite direction. When I’m not moving anywhere, that troubles me.” Jeff naturally ignores sunk costs by only focusing on the future (see Steven Sample’s The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership). This perspective allows him to actively construct his own future and think big about its possibilities. No regrets, just 180 degree turns and progress. How else do you think Jeff has been able to scale Six Taste in such a short period of time?
Jeff is self-aware.
Jeff maximizes his strengths and confronts his flaws as habitually as anyone else would go on Facebook. He is able to articulate his tendencies, irrationalities, and internal conflicts with ease. He knows exactly what causes him stress, how much instability is too much, and that the only thing that has kept his attention for years on end has been Celeste. Acting on this information, he implements such things as a “relationships” tab on his work manager because he knows building relationships makes him happy, but he often chooses to work instead.
Jeff even takes the time to analyze why he likes certain shows, books, and stories. He knows he is drawn to strong male leads (think Don Draper, Walter White, and Rick Grimes), so he actively seeks to become one in his own life. A well-read protagonist, Jeff can tell a compelling creation story for his business in order get others on board (see Howard Gardner’s Leading Minds and Warren Bennis’s "The Leader as A Story Teller").
Jeff balances ego and humility.
Jeff fears the organizations he started and manages will crumble without his leadership (Delta Omicron Zeta National Council and the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Club to name a few). I would call that ego. At the same time, Jeff acknowledges that many people’s efforts move these organizations forward, and he believes he could have done a better job in these roles. Jeff will address his company’s successes: stellar consumer ratings, multiplying tour locations, and a new focus on strategic partnerships, but he will also be the first to tell you that when he turns 26 this year, he wishes he could have his career figured out. In my opinion, Jeff has enough ego to believe in his audacious plans and also enough humility to make him relatable and driven. This balance marks a true leader who does not trip over power but pulls in others on the way to the top.
What leaders inspire you? I invite you to share their stories here.