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The Five Ingredients of Leadership, a Recipe to Remember

Not too long ago I was going through a presentation I prepared some 10 years ago. It contained a great quote on leadership. A quote that I would like to share because I believe it explains the core of business leadership, in the appropriate language. The words are from Terry Leahy, at the time CEO of British food retailer Tesco.

There is a simple recipe for leadership, which is

To find out the truth of the situation

Paint a picture of where you want to get to,

Make a plan and go and do it

Always believe that there is a better place

And then persuade people to go there with you.

There is a simple recipe for leadership. The main point for me is a “simple recipe” which means the ingredients are easy to remember. This is important because leaders, in their stressful lives full of distractions, need a “list” of easy to remember steps they need to take, every day. However, easy to recollect does not equal easy to do. On the contrary, I think that most leaders and managers have difficulty “cooking their leadership recipe”.

Let’s take a look at the five ingredients

1. Find out the Truth of the Situation. Using the word truth is an interesting choice. This is obvious about deep analysis of your company covering financials, sales, organization, processes etc. This “hard” investigative process can be complex and involve many players and issues, causing distractions from the essence. Truth points to human and stresses the importance of the soft analysis of “walking around”, meeting people, to listen and observe.

2. Paint a picture of where you want to get to. There are two key components in these words. First, as a leader, you need to have a vision outlining what you want your company to look like in the future. Where you want to go to, provides a sense of direction for your organization, in easy-to-understand messages. Second, you need to develop a communications platform, using many visuals instead of words and bullets, simply because pictures are easier to understand than words for most people. You need to effectively deliver the message, using appropriate formats and repeat it often so people will internalize.

3. Make a plan and go and do it. Next you’ll embark on the journey. You’ll be leading step by step along the way, showing direction. This is where detailed business planning comes into play. Goals are translated into strategies, which are delegated into actions and operationalization. The execution must be monitored, feedback provided and course of action adjusted.

4. Always believe that there is a better place. These are critical words. Believing is about your own energy, passion and commitment. You drive the positivity, encouragement and creativity to overcome the obstacles along the way. There will be many! Opportunities are the “better place”, they exist in every situation, but need to be spotted and captured.

5. Persuade people to go there with you. Building on the previous four ingredients this is marketing your ideas, enticing your people and committing them to action. Your analysis, vision and roadmap are communicated verbally and non-verbally. You show that you are your true self, authentic, passionate, a visionary and a professional.

Leahy goes on to say.

I think most people will recognize this analysis and agree. What about reality? Is your boss a true leader, are you a true leader? Have leaders thought through the ingredients and their recipe for leadership?

You can always fall back on Mr Leahy’s simple recipe for leadership.



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