4 Essential Ingredients for Leadership

Steve Rush Issue 11 - May/June 2014, Operations Leave a Comment

Leadership is like cake. Executive Steve Rush explains how to bake it.

By Steve Rush

The leaders I have worked with, when asked, “What is it that makes you a leader?” generally did not identify with any specific characteristics, traits or styles that led to their leadership career. In most cases, their leadership experience had emerged from their life and work experiences, both consciously and subconsciously.

Many leaders told me, “I wish I’d had a recipe for success years ago.” Many people who now find themselves as leaders may have acquired their position due to a rapid promotion or a change in structure. They may not have been given a recipe for success when they embarked on their first leadership role.

steve_rush_CAKE

Testing a New Recipe

As a leader, think of yourself metaphorically as a cake. Every cake needs flour, eggs, sugar and butter. Otherwise it is not a cake, right? Just as if you were baking a real cake, you cannot leave out the essential ingredients in your “leadership cake.”

Where do we find the recipe book so we at least know what to put into our cake? As in many of the finest kitchens of gourmet chefs, the best recipes often are found within our experience and in those who came before us. Many fine bakers use traditional recipes and add their own flair to make an even better cake than they were taught to bake. Leaders can approach their leadership cake recipes in like manner.

There are four essential leadership ingredients as detailed in the new book, “Leadership Cake: A Recipe for Success in Leadership,” being launched in New York City in February 2014. While these ingredients are essential, they are not the only four. Without them, however, it is not a cake.

Your leadership cake must include:

C – Communication;

A – Authenticity;

K – Knowledge; and

E – Empathy.

Communication

The one common ingredient the world’s greatest leaders share is that they are all exceptional communicators. They have the ability to convey a message and consistently resonate and engage deeply with their audiences.

You may be familiar with the communication model that says only 7 percent of the words you use are heard, and the rest of what you communicate is found in your tone (38 percent) and nonverbal cues like body language and gestures (55 percent). In your leadership recipe, if you have a spoonful too much communication, you run the risk of being overpowering and losing the message. A spoonful too few, and you may not be understood.

Authenticity

In leadership, authenticity quite simply means unique or original. One of the easiest ways to mess up your cake is by trying to sound or behave like somebody else (i.e., mimicking a colleague’s leadership style.) Here is an equation to help you: (s + d) x B = A.

If you say and do what you genuinely believe, you are authentic. If you have a spoonful too much, it will appear that you are trying too hard and you may lose impact. A spoonful too few, and you will not have the credibility and conviction you need.

Knowledge

In meetings and boardrooms, you may have heard that “knowledge is power.” Well, knowledge is only powerful if you or your business shares that knowledge. Occasionally when somebody has more knowledge than others, it can create a sense of technical hierarchy. In every organization, the broader the distribution of each staff member’s knowledge, the better equipped the organization can be at responding with agility to different situations and scenarios.

A spoonful too much knowledge, your teams can hide behind their technical acumen and appear indispensable, but they are often less productive. A spoonful too few will mean your organization may lack the competitive edge needed.

Empathy

Empathy in your leadership cake acts as the eggs in regular cake: It is a binding agent that helps everything else stick together. A formal definition of empathy according to the “Oxford English Dictionary” is: “the power of identifying oneself mentally with (and so fully comprehending/understanding) a person or object of contemplation.”

Being a strong leader now requires that we listen actively and engage more fully throughout the organization, which helps us to develop empathy and cohesion. A spoonful too much empathy will mean that you may stray into sympathy and add to a problem. While this can be very supportive, leaders have to balance their empathy to avoid getting too close. A spoonful too few will have your teams believing you do not really understand them, and they are less likely to be supportive of you.

Making It Your Own

There are several other aspects of leadership that allow you to add your own flair. In your leadership cake, these include filling, icing on the cake and your aftertaste. These special elements represent your personal development, your personal brand and the legacy you leave behind. When applied appropriately, they each enhance the palatability, appeal and lasting impact you have as a leader.

For a more in-depth review of your leadership cake ingredients and the appropriate quantities, visit www.leadershipcake.com, where you can download a free “recipe pad.” The book is available in paperback and e-reader from most online bookstores. ♦


Steve Rush is an author and leadership expert whose career spans global firms generating multimillion-pound revenues. He is the author of “Leadership Cake,” which combines his expertise and leadership lessons into a fresh perspective on leadership success. Live testing of “Leadership Cake” with leaders in both the U.K. and the U.S. inspired Rush to share the philosophy on the global stage. For more information, visit www.leadershipcake.com.

Rush is also Chief Executive Officer of Improov Consulting, a leadership, management and training consultancy based in Vale of Glamorgan near Cardiff, South Wales, U.K. It provides solutions tailored to ever-changing businesses and individual needs in the areas of learning and development; sales skills and buying models; sales leadership; relationship management; marketing; personal effectiveness and change management; communications skills; and financial services exam training. For more information, visit www.improovconsulting.com.

Profile photo of Steve Rush

Steve Rush

Steve Rush is an author and leadership expert whose career spans global firms generating multimillion-pound revenues. He is the author of “Leadership Cake,” which combines his expertise and leadership lessons into a fresh perspective on leadership success. Live testing of “Leadership Cake” with leaders in both the U.K. and the U.S. inspired Rush to share the philosophy on the global stage. For more information, visit www.leadershipcake.com.

Rush is also Chief Executive Officer of Improov Consulting, a leadership, management and training consultancy based in Vale of Glamorgan near Cardiff, South Wales, U.K. It provides solutions tailored to ever-changing businesses and individual needs in the areas of learning and development; sales skills and buying models; sales leadership; relationship management; marketing; personal effectiveness and change management; communications skills; and financial services exam training. For more information, visit www.improovconsulting.com.
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