Is being a leader as simple as baking cookies? 

Short answer – no. But I’m sure you knew that already. 

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of serving in various leadership positions and have learned what works, what doesn’t work, and how I can lead better as an individual. Herein, I’ll share 3 important lessons that I’ve learned; the culinary parallels only serve as metaphors (so please don’t blame me if your baking skills haven’t improved!). 

I consider myself a baking enthusiast. Some of my baking has turned out spectacularly awful. Others have been met with smiles and long m’s. My source of knowledge? The countless recipes you find online, in books, and by self-taught bakers with hundreds of 5-star ratings. 

But what does all this have to do with leadership? Well, for starters, how many books and podcasts have you seen or heard about the different types of leadership? To micromanage or not to micromanage? Do you lead by what you believe is right or do you listen to the opinion of others?

As with many things in life, each leadership style has its pros and cons. In my own experience, I have found that understanding the repertoire of different styles and when they may be appropriate is important. If we want the best outcome from our team, then we need to acknowledge the diverse backgrounds, skills, personalities, and experiences that make up our team. So, how do we lead amongst diversity?

Lesson 1: Communicate expectations early and compromise, where possible

If you want a chewy cookie, then you need high quantities of sugar. What do you do when you don’t have sugar? 

Communicating your expectations early on can be a confronting (but necessary) first step. Sharing the vision is the easy part. Supporting the vision with go-to steps is the hard part. Perhaps we neglect the latter because we don’t want the truth to affect morale, or worse, to lose team members. But if we communicate these thoughts early on and are open to dialogue and compromise, then what we may lose in potential outcomes, we will gain in respect. Ultimately, leadership is about people and if you lose that, then you’re just a one person working machine. 

Lesson 2: Check-in regularly and fix problems early 

If you realised that you mixed salt instead of sugar in your cookie dough, would you still put it in the oven? 

When you’re head down and busy with business, it’s easy to not stop for a moment and feel the pulse of the room. We often assume that our own motivations and energy state is matched by those around us. Never assume. Making a conscious effort to set aside time to catch up with your team is just as important as the work itself. In the pursuit of success, we can become blindsided to any issues that may arise. But if we identify these issues early, then we can avoid these problems from cascading into something far bigger or worse. 

Lesson 3: The secret sauce is what binds a team together 

The best chocolate chip cookies require 48 hours in the fridge

We connect with each other through shared human emotions. Sometimes this involves shared interests and experiences. When a team bonds over a project, it’s not because they enjoy crunching numbers or writing reports, it’s because they share the same feelings when they do so. But when the task becomes menial and the joke gets old, that’s when you start to lose people. Never overlook the value of team bonding activities and the impact it can have to boost morale, mental health, and overall work productivity. 

Of course, all in moderation. They certainly won’t fix all problems but hopefully, they can inspire adaptable and empathetic leadership. 

What are some of your leadership tips? Comment below – I’d love to hear them!

All views are my own. 

Image reference

Stafford, G. (2021, March 26). Crazy Cookie Dough: One Easy Cookie Recipe with Endless Flavor Variations! Bigger Bolder Baking. 

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