Elevate Your Ingredients

I love the show Chopped on the Food Network!  Each week (well I tend to watch later or On Demand), contestants are given a basket of the most random things and told to make three courses (a basket for each) in an allotted time.  Sometimes the items are absolutely crazy and gross like goeduck (pronounced goey duck – don’t look it up, its a clam thing), and some things are basic and rather plain like some type of bread.  Either way, the judges don’t want them to just saute the item and throw it on the plate or crumble it and put it on the top as a garnish.  They want the item to be transformed, elevated, made-better.

plate of food

I like cooking shows because they bring the best of the best on and ask them to elevate whatever they touch. Shouldn’t the same be said about our leaders?

As you may be aware, I completed my Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University in December 2012, but what you’re probably not aware of is that part of this program is a Certificate in Servant Leadership from the Robert K. Greenleaf Institute.  What does that matter?  Robert Greenleaf is one of the most profound writers on servant leadership ever.  Today we’re going to look at two of his quotations:

  1.  “Good leaders must first become good servants.” Greenleaf
  2. “The best leaders are clear.  They continually light the way, and in the process, let each person know that what they do makes a difference.  The best test as a leader is:  Do those served grow as persons; do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become leaders?”

Now I must admit, I don’t have Greenleaf’s book anymore, so I stole both these quotations off of http://www.azquotes.com.  I’m sure both would be easy to find in his books.

When it comes to leadership these days, it seems like has become easy to slip into a transactional system where you assign and see results. As a leader you can choose to praise, but you don’t really need to, because after all, the transaction was completed.

Cut, saute, plate and give it to the Judge. 

Ideal leadership, the kind that I’m sure we all wish we could experience more has transformation at its core.  So what does that mean? Transformation means taking something and elevating it. It definitely means that you must be willing to serve those who you are leading.  I love Greenleaf’s assertion that the best test is whether people have grown.   Leading a group ends up being a lot like the Chopped kitchen.  Sometimes your team contains a goeduck and sometimes it contains Wagyu Beef (perhaps the highest quality beef in the world).  Our jobs as leaders is to make that basket of ingredients work together and create a cohesive recipe.  It means elevating the ingredients and making each as special as Wagyu.  When we learn to do that, our teams will grow, our projects will improve and our engagement scores will show up much kinder.



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