Everyone can lead, here’s how
By JASMINE CHUAH
One of my favourite movies to watch is the 2007 computer-animated comedy film Ratatouille. Reasons being, for one, the close-up graphics of really delicious-looking food and two, the simple message of the movie which is “everyone can cook”.
The truth of that saying hit me in a cooking workshop one day, when I was taught how to make a meal out of spaghetti, salt and herbs.
I was 12 years old and inspired, and I resolved to go home and make spaghetti for the whole family. They didn’t like it. Regardless, I fell in love with herbs like parsley and thyme and later on, got infatuated with rosemary. The relationship between the four of us has been solid ever since.
I grew up into not only a considerably adequate cook but also a leader of sorts. Being a prefect in school took me to many places in my personal development as a leader.
I learnt how to control a crowd without causing a riot, how to get a point across without offending people and so on. Looking back, it was truly an adventure that brings back really great memories, but the most memorable lesson is that leading is just like cooking.
And just like Ratatouille: everyone can cook. In other words, everyone can lead.
Why do I say so? The leader is like the cook, the current situation is like the kitchen that the leader is in, and everything else about people: their characters, personalities and skill sets, goals, backgrounds… are the ingredients.
The meal is the end goal that the leader is supposed to help everyone achieve.
Leadership recipe tips
In the real world, all of these variables are different and they are always changing. So, the question is, how do you cook?
The easy answer here would be: there is no real recipe for success. But I understand how disappointing that sounds, so here are some pointers.
1. Know your cooking style
Just as there are different kinds of chefs, there are different kinds of leaders. Just as each chef has his own cooking style, each leader has his own way of leading.
Some people are methodical chefs, so they will be organised leaders. Others like things simple, their leadership will be direct and uncomplicated.
Some individuals like to play around with spices and experiment, they will have unconventional methods.
In the end, regardless of whichever kind of leader you find yourself becoming, the most important thing is to ensure that you play to your strengths and never become too extreme.
If you are unconventional, ensure that your risks are well thought out. If you happen to be methodical, make sure to allow for flexibility in your plan. If you like things simple, remember that sometimes a little bit of flair won’t hurt.
At the end of the day, play them to your best ability and be ready to throw off failure and keep trying.
2. Prepare your recipe
A good chef always prepares a recipe or has an idea of what he will be doing before beginning the actual preparation of food. Just like a chef, a leader too must have a plan, no matter how vague.
Like a recipe, a plan helps the leader to see what is needed. This in turn helps with the pacing of the project as well as the management of people.
In addition, a plan helps the leader prepare for what is ahead and see potential pitfalls. This in turn helps the leader prepare for those pitfalls and improve communication between members.
3. Know the ingredients
A smart chef always makes it a point to get to know the ingredients.
Have you ever realised that the chefs on food shows always make it a point to introduce the ingredients to an audience?
They usually drop tidbits of information about its history and its general usage. This is because you never know when knowledge about that food might help in choosing your ingredients.
Just like a chef, a leader too needs to get to know his ingredients: his people. A chef mixes and matches his ingredients to bring out the best qualities for the final product. A leader’s job is to mix and match his people to bring out the best in them.
To do that, a leader has to know who his people are, what they are inspired by, what their skill sets are and what backgrounds they come from.
The more you know about people, the easier it is to communicate with them. A good leader knows his people and is able to communicate the final aims and objectives to them. His people would know that he cares about them, about bringing the best out of them so that everyone gains in the end.
4. Know your kitchen
The kitchen is the home of the chef. Everything that he needs can be found in the kitchen. Henceforth, a good chef knows his kitchen and the equipment available.
Likewise, a good leader is aware about his environment and how he can change it.
A good leader is capable of changing his environment in such a way that it helps the team be more productive and efficient without decreasing the team’s passion – for example, having a meeting to realign the team towards their goals and objectives all the while cheering them on in their current efforts. Or having little discussions with team members on how they as a team can improve.
In the end, I guess what I truly want to get across is that anyone can be a leader if they are willing to step into the “kitchen” and “start cooking”. As long as you have a heart for people, no matter big or small; as long as you are willing to move to bring out the best in everyone, you are a leader.
The world isn’t your oyster, it is your kitchen!
Jasmine is always game for ambitious new recipes and radical new ways of communication. She loves mixing and matching herbs as much as she loves doing the same with people. Most of all, she loves how delicious life can become when people take the initiative to lead and bring out the best in others. Have a recipe for success you’d like to share? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a line in the comment box provided. For more Starting Young articles, click here.
First appeared on Leaderonomics.com. Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 4 July 2015