I can hardly wait! As a “wanna be” chef, the thought of creating Thanksgiving dinner makes me excited beyond words. Cooking trumps many of my interests. It sets off a certain creativity within me that soothes my soul. The only recipe I’ll be following on Turkey Day is pumpkin pie – because that’s baking, not cooking.
Cooking is an art. Baking is a science. Ugh… I just felt the energy leave my body. It can simply squash the fun for me. Because I know if just one smidge of the carelessly measured baking soda is amiss on the crust, it can be all over.
In my anticipation of this culinary frenzy during the holidays, it’s occurred to me how our leadership style can be connected to the seasoning of food. There are many taste bud experiences – bitter, sweet, salty, sour, spicy and savory. For purposes of this blog, we’ll simply focus on two –Spicy and Savory.
Leadership Styles – Spicy or Savory
Most of us have encountered a variety of leadership styles. Some of us are still settling into our own. It would be remiss of me to suggest there are only two possibilities. However, this binary framework helps us see how what we cook and serve as leaders can either be tasted quickly or experienced slowly by our team members and stakeholders.
SPICY leaders tend to bring out or evoke instant reaction. There is usually immediacy in words and behaviors. You never have to guess where they stand.
However, it’s not necessarily a “one spice fits all” situation. There are different concentrations – mild, medium and hot – much akin to our choices for Mexican or Thai. Spicy leader behaviors are usually intended for short-lived situations. They may be sure to push us in a certain direction to drive a result in the moment or based on the urgency of a pending deadline.
One of my most spicy leaders was Jim. I didn’t always like the level of intensity he imposed on sales situations, yet it lit up the achiever in me. The style pushed me to exceed expectations in the shortest amount of time beyond what I thought was possible. When Jim dialed up the spice and heat, we turned up the results.
SAVORY leaders, on the other hand, hit our palettes slowly, much like a well-seasoned stew or marinated meat with just the right ingredients and timing. They gradually have an impact on our approach to situations and even our longer-term development. Their savory style affects how we view everything from annual goals to bigger picture planning.
Because the taste of savory leaders is a slower release and lingers, we often reflect on the last pleasant interaction with them and remember the experience and subsequent lesson. They are memorable, and their approach can be endearing. My most savory leader was Larry. Thirty years later I remember what and how he taught me many of the leadership ingredients and recipes that I still rely on today. The taste of the experience in working with, being groomed by, and always encouraged by Larry will always be savored like a fine meal.
What is your leadership seasoning?
Are you more spicy or savory? The reality is we need some of each style! We can call on both at certain points in leading because based on the person and the situation they are all necessary at different times.
Spicy leaders feed a sense of urgency, tight deadlines, and short- term results. Savory leaders feed those situations that call for the long view, that are focused on small continuing improvements and know that sometimes simmering the pot vs. cooking it up too quickly will serve a more thoughtful and strategic outcome.
What’s working or not working for you and your team? One to three years from now, will it have been more important to be spicy or savory in a specific scenario? Do you need to change up some of your ingredients to create a different result? As we bring this year to a close and 2018 is ushered in quickly, it’s a perfect time to reflect on how you affect the palette of your team.