Leadership is Like Ice Cream

The words “leader” and “leadership” used to be widely accepted definitions of person(s) at the very top. Now, they have been widely broadened to reflectively include those who contribute to the process of moving things forward at any level, in any business setting.

 I like to think of it this way, leadership is like ice cream, and the specific business, industry or circumstances are the flavors. It is impossible to use chocolate chip and make it work when pistachio swirl is required, unless you only care about the fact that you used “leadership ice cream” and not about the outcome or how it tastes. Now you know why poor leadership leaves such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

The mixing of flavors (or leadership styles/skills) is a creative endeavor, because it has to be. The quest of all leaders, doing the right thing – at the right time – time after time – is not a science; it’s the repetitive capture of quicksilver. An enlightened/contemporary approach demands different leadership tactics for ever-changing circumstances and roles. You can be a lead cook, server or busser (out in-front-modeling the job in a stellar fashion) but that is different than a General Manager, battlefield leader or neighborhood political leader. Hone in on what will work best for your situation, circumstance, and timeframe.

Leadership (at any level) is simply a role. It can be definitive or derivative, but still just one of many roles that are played out within any human enterprise. Management is, in most situations, a job, with an accompanying job description. (Try to find a formal company job description for “leader.”)  Leadership and Management are properly awesome together — like ice cream and a cone but they aren’t the same thing!

In the hospitality industry leadership is sought, recognized and cultivated at all levels. If someone is the best busser/cook/server/bartender they can become a “lead” and leaders at all levels are the lifeblood of any hospitality organization. I am not a top–down leadership school-of-thought adherent, although it has had its place in history.  Enlightened organizations currently seek bottom-up/sideways/criss-cross leadership involvement and engagement. They rotate and align the best people, ideas, practices and future “potentials” to positions out in front.

Present day business environments are shockingly fluid and demanding of skills that previously were not essential requirements. At the top of this skills list is learning on-the-fly and adapting to ever-changing conditions.

How do you develop adroitness, awareness and capacity? With seasoning! How do you accelerate seasoning? Hopefully, with the complete backing of the entire organization toward leadership development, and by accepting that “mistakes” are part of the process. As many have stated before, not pushing your limits to the point of making some mistakes is a mistake, especially when you’re attempting to create engaged leaders at all levels of your organization. Please keep this seasoning logic at the forefront of your mind as you attempt to accomplish one of the major components of any leadership role – identifying and developing future leaders.

 A Quick Sidebar on Seasoning –

Some ol’ school professionals will remember a time when cast-iron cookware was the tool of choice, and all of those pans needed to be seasoned prior to use. There were formal steps that had to be undertaken prior to actually using the pan — a thorough cleaning, heavy coating of the proper oil, and measured heating. Seasoning is/was required in order to make the pans less sticky and to stave off rust.

In other words, formal steps are taken to make them work better and last longer. Might there be an equivalent body/mind/spirit process to accelerate the seasoning of your leaders? Perhaps, accelerated seasoning methodology is something to think about/act upon in your near future. It is, after all, the element most missing in the newly anointed at any level.

Individuals who use their “all,” and use it correctly, have accomplished many a success in business, athletics, and warfare. This, by the way, is the foundational reasoning smart folks use for hiring and promoting people who can draw from demonstrable military, sports, or previous business success.

All business owners/leaders attempt to develop a “strategy” for their business, which simply comes down to the decisions they make to maximize all available resources to gain success, however they define it. If working leaders have had limited life experience, their strategies are usually limited in scope. If you get the chance in life to participate in something that fully challenges you and demands physical and/or maximum mental effort, sign up. This life “seasoning” directly adds value in a business environment.

Leaders, you must try to create the most impactful flavor of leadership (ice cream) that works best for your situation/team and you’re going to have some bad batches along the way. Many of you already have faced the fact that some folks on your team will come up with a “dirt” flavor of team leadership when you asked them for cool-mint. However, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of positive outcomes if you embrace the quest for engaged leadership at all levels as if it were both a business necessity and a creative flavor endeavor.

 

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