Leadership is like dinner

  • Published
  • By Col. Duane Creamer
  • 52nd Maintenance Group
For those of you who are students of leadership, there are literally thousands of books and articles on leadership, leadership styles, situational leadership, etc. - many of which contain useful information to determine why and how some styles worked in the environment in which they were applied.

Many of the publications also teach the mechanics of how the leadership style or techniques developed. From years of practicing and studying leadership, I offer that there isn't a "one size fits all" approach to leadership and the application of leadership principles.

With that said, if you are seeking to develop your leadership skills and style, you may be in a predicament as to how to become a better leader or how to lead.

I'm rather certain you have a set of values that you judge "good" leadership by. Likewise, when you observe leadership you judge as good, you probably make a mental note to yourself about the things you want to emulate. Conversely, you probably also take note of the things you don't want to repeat or emulate.

Despite the ability to judge good leadership, you might still be perplexed as to how to become the leader you want to be or how to develop those skills. Where do you turn? Perhaps this analogy might help. I suggest that good leadership is very much the same as a good meal.

When you go to a restaurant and order a meal, it doesn't have to be anything fancy, perhaps just a favorite dish you order regularly. Inevitably, one establishment serves your standard order better than others. You may wonder why this is.

You know all the ingredients are basically the same, and the food preparation is probably pretty close, so what makes it different? Why is that dinner better than one you got the last time? Is it the way the dinner makes you feel, emotions the meal brings out, were you just really hungry that day or is it some combination of things that you truly can't put your finger on?

Good leadership is a situational occurrence happening when you least expect it. Collectively, we all see several leaders and acts of leadership daily. What sets one leader apart from others? Why is that person's leadership style and approach more effective than another person trying to achieve the same thing? Perhaps it is like the dinner - it is the way the leader made you feel, the feelings or emotions that leader's style brings out, or yet again, some combination of things that you truly can't put your finger on.

I would offer that leadership, like cooking, is a process that takes many attempts to perfect. It also takes time to develop, several attempts to improve and requires interaction between people. Without the interaction, you don't know if your leadership is effective. Likewise, leadership is something that if left unattended will probably not turn out as you had hoped. Furthermore, just like every cooking effort doesn't always result in a good meal, every leadership situation does not always net good leadership.

There will be times when some personal reflection is required to assess why everything did not turn out as you had envisioned. You must be willing to make adjustments to ensure you don't repeat what may have led to the negative outcome.

I believe most leaders would agree that leadership is both a science and an art. The science aspect needs can be met through professional schools, personal study and personal observation. However, the art of leadership takes time to perfect, a certain amount of ingredients and an overall objective blending all aspects together to deliver just the right combination.

All of this is just like the last good meal you consumed. When things are not correct and time wasn't taken to blend all the ingredients together, the dinner does not meet your expectations and tastes bad. Conversely, when only some things are correct, the dinner tastes ok, but something is still missing. On the other hand, once everything is right, the dinner tastes better than it ever has before.

I bet you never thought of dinner as this in depth before.