I have always thought that leaders are like chefs. They have two traits in common; (1) They have that “Je ne sais quoi” that allows them to make great meals regardless of the kitchen they are cooking in; and (2) Aspiring chefs seek out their recipes. This fact was proven last month when Celest and I participated in a week-long cooking class taught by the great chef George Geary. Watching him and interacting with the other participants (who are now friends for life) reinforced my leadership beliefs, especially when it came to eating the meals we cooked and George sharing his recipes and techniques with the class.
When it comes to recipes, there are two that leaders have to give to others and pass down to future generations:
How to make a living.
How to make a life.
Reason being, the digital age we are in has made it more difficult for leaders to make both. Let’s begin with making a living. Leaders are dealing with more uncertainty, complexity, and politics than ever before because of how digital is disrupting careers, companies and communities. Leaders have to know how to make“No regret” decisions in the face of all of these things. The key ingredients are clarity of purpose (Knowing what you want); integrity (Knowing what you won’t do to get it); and grit (Knowing that you are willing to start anew if the food didn’t come out the way you wanted it to).
Making a life has also become more difficult because leaders are expected to be always-connected and always-on. People get ticked if you don’t respond to an email or “Like” something they have posted within 24 hours. Leaders wind up doing “Drive-bys” with their loved ones. In the process, leaders begin to distance themselves. If leaders are not careful, they end up making a living but living a lonely life. It’s even more difficult when kids are involved because it is harder to raise kids now. Gone are the days when parents could open the door and let kids go outside until it began to get dark. Also gone are the days if they were getting bullied at school they found sanctuary in the home. Cyber-bullying follows them everywhere. The end result being both parents or partners have a lot of stress and they wind up either taking it out on each other or distancing themselves from each other. The key ingredients for making a successful life are time (Stay-ins instead of drive-bys); empathy (Understanding the stresses your significant other and kids are dealing with); and forgiveness (The willingness to makeup if someone didn’t cook the meal the right way).
In closing, Celest and I are going to attend another one of George’s week-long cooking class. I now refer to it as a leadership couples retreat. We have been together for 41 years, married 38 of them, and there have been many times in which the living and life meals were not edible, especially when I was doing the cooking. During those times, we went back to the recipe and cooked the meal again.