Chef’s know their new dish was a hit when customers make recipe requests. At the county fair, the best baker gets a ribbon. In the office, the best leader gets to keep leading. Wait a minute. Leading has a recipe and a set of specific ingredients and much like many cooks, the art of a dash of this and pinch of that is also is a factor, but leading is a bit different. Leading is ongoing, not done when the over dings. Leading varies by person and when it’s good no one asks questions. But what are the ingredients to good, better, and even the best kinds of leading? Today’s Monday Moment opens up the pantry of data from years of leadership wisdom and whips up an easy to follow recipe if you’re looking to perfect the art of becoming a better leader.
Ensuring your choice to become a leader in the first place is likely the most important ingredient. If leaders were packaged, conscious choice would be the first item listed under nutrients. The best leaders are not those who are leading because they feel obligated, forced, or like this was the only real logical option. The best leaders wake up from bed looking to lead because they thrive on the opportunity to do so. They consciously choose and desire to lead, daily.
Just after making that conscious choice and sometimes long before the choice was presented, the best leader’s practice. Whether its skills, knowledge acquisition, a new way of thinking, a different perspective, or an alternate way to achieve greater efficiency or larger numbers, leaders are always practicing the effort of improvement. I’ve often said all it takes to be a leader is desire, skills, and practice. The best leaders make practice their second ingredient and do it often.
No leadership program, practice, course, or book leaves communication out as a strong recommendation for focus. However, the number of variations on the topic are nearly immeasurable. Communication is an ingredient in successful leadership, much as nuts are an ingredient in peanut butter. No kidding. However, the best leaders communicate clearly, in different ways to different people, often, the good and the bad news, upstream and down, and with nearly as much focus on talking as on shushing up to listen. This ingredient might best be called communication in pursuit of perfection.
Imperfect leaders populate the list of the great ones. Forgiveness is an important ingredient to a leader’s success, but it’s not merely to be aimed at those the leader directs. Forgiveness indicates a growth mindset. All leaders have tried and failed. All leaders have attempted and missed. All leaders have explored learning, which often required doing it completely incorrectly once or twice. Forgiveness is for those you lead who need the freedom and boundaries in which to learn, much as a pie pan contains the ingredients. Forgiveness also frees the leader to choose, once again, to continue to make progress, practice, communicate, and keep going.
There are innumerable actions and efforts the best leaders take and yet, the lack of these four ingredients make up the large majority of leadership complaints. They wish they said it better when stressed. They wish they could let go of an action they wished they hadn’t taken. They wish they didn’t feel stuck in their now elevated and overloaded position. Yes, we could enjoy raspberry infused chocolate ganache with a spritz of citrus flavor, but sometimes the effort and time is too great. Given the choice and a fork, sometimes the best dishes are those with the most simple, comforting, stable ingredients and in leadership, these four take the cake!
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121.