The Glen Bell Taco Spell

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Tacos are a daily convenience in America today, but that wasn’t always the case. It was one man, Glen Bell, who realized that selling hot dogs on the street corner wasn’t cutting it. It was Glen Bell that decided America needed some crunch on the menu. His first restaurant, Bell’s Drive-In, blossomed into Taco Bell, a chain with 5,200 restaurants in the U.S. today. One might say “he cast a taco spell on the nation.” And like the creators of all beloved things in our culture, be it Iphones, Call of Duty: Ghosts or Hershey Kisses, Glen Bell generated more than a successful business. Even Harvard Business Review recognized Glen Bell as a highly influential American business leader. But understanding what made him a great leader is the real nugget of gold. Below are some insights into Glen Bell’s leadership qualities.




3 Glen Bell Leadership Values:

  1. Valuing Gender Diversity

    In his youth, Glen Bell put his studies on hold to help his great aunt Mary with her bakery. It was then he realized the value of working with women. Years later, when growing his business, Glen recognized the company was having difficulty recruiting quality managers. He branched outside of the male candidate pool and Taco Bell became the first chain to hire women managers to run the stores (The Glen Bell Legacy, Taco Bell). According to Women in the Labor Force: A Databook, released by the U.S. Census Bureau, women accounted for 51% of all persons employed in management, professional and related occupations as of 2011. One small seed, like the one planted by Glen Bell, has the power to shape the future.

  2. Valuing Family

    When reflecting on an individual’s life, the root of who they were tends to be the focus of those closest to them. Glen Bell is no exception. It would seem to be no coincidence that loved ones and peers commented on Bell’s love for his family after his passing. Greg Creed, president of Taco Bell, said in a statement “Glen Bell was a visionary and innovator in the restaurant industry, as well as a dedicated family man” (CBS News). His daughter said “He was a wonderful father. He always put people first, and people were drawn to him” (Legacy). Decisions a person makes to find balance in life, and contribute to society while still loving their family happen on a daily basis. Wise leaders know finding balance can’t be put off indefinitely, or it will never happen.  

  3. Valuing Service623b46ce9de2f6147eb350aabcf1d1ed

    This great leader was a man of service. He served his country as a marine in World War 2. Prompted by his love for horticulture, he also started Bell Gardens as a place for students to learn. He was quoted for saying “you create the person you become.” It was clear he created a dedication to service in his future, and became a man of service in his life. His legacy in giving opportunity without discrimination, considering the perspectives of others and caring for people, is the real gift left behind.


Glen Bell is a gentleman whose legacy still impacts the daily lives of Americans. “I always smile when I hear people say that they never had a taco until Taco Bell came to town,” Bell told Nation’s Restaurant News in 2008, when the trade publication honored him with its Pioneer Award. “We changed the eating habits of the entire country.” Leadership may not usually involve tacos, but it often involves priorities, values and strong emotional intelligence. Those who make the greatest mark on the world do so, not by confirming to the norm, but by breaking from the pack. Today’s leaders have the same opportunities to cause change. A business leader still has the opportunity to hire a woman in a field that is almost exclusively male, strike balance in working life to show their family they care or start a foundation to benefit others in need. The possibilities to step up and lead are all around; the trick is taking action.


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Leadership Qualities of Angela Ahrendts
Steve Jobs Leadership
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(Glen Bell Photo Credit: Courtesy Company Via Inc.)