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Leadership Lessons from a Cooking Show

Orange Leaders
Orange Leaders Tuesday January 3, 2012
<? echo $type; ?> Leadership Lessons from a Cooking Show

by Dan Scott

The other night we found ourselves watching the Iron Chef Super-Chef battle at the White House. We watched as Alton Brown divided four of the most talented chefs in the United States into two teams for one ultimate showdown.

About halfway through the show, I realized that I was witnessing real teamwork. Here you had, four great individuals, all executive chefs, working together without any trace of ego getting in the way. What could have been an explosion of wills was actually a beautiful give and take of submission to authority for the given challenge.

Emeril never said, “Bam!” Not even once.

Obama’s executive chef never said, “Oh, I cook for—you may know him—THE PRESIDENT!”

Even Iron Chefs Flay and Batali never once mentioned that they were the Iron Chefs for the competition.

For the rest of the episode I watched with new eyes and noticed five qualities that helped leaders lead and leaders follow:

Focus on the Bigger Task at Hand: The goal was not only to win, but to show America how to prepare locally grown food. This was the vision that drove the chefs to do their best. The goal wasn’t about making themselves known as the best chef but rather make known that preparing healthy food isn’t difficult. The bigger picture for their job was at the forefront of the task. They had a goal and strove for that.

Play to strengths: Each chef realized the strengths of their partners and played to those strengths. Cooking is about technique which is at a different level of expertise for each chef. These chefs allowed for each other to cook according to their ability.

Willing to Ask Questions: Each chef at a certain point during the competition asked their team members for advice on a technique or flavor. The chefs showed humility in their willingness to ask questions. The result was better tasting food.

Allow the Each Other to Shine: Each chef cooked according to their specialties and flavor palates as they fit within the grand vision of the meal. Batali didn’t demand Italian from Emeril but rather allowed him to prepare a New Orleans inspired dessert that was a highlight of the evening. Batali in turn gave him the credit for the dish. They worked hard to make those styles fit within the meal to great success.

Have Fun: They all had fun. Laughter was the key. Even when some dishes weren’t going as planned, the spirit was one of fun and camaraderie. Without a doubt, everyone in the studio was having a good time.

As we work together with each other, it’s too easy for our egos to get in the way. However, we have something bigger at stake: the very lives of kids and students for the sake of the Gospel. We can’t let ourselves to distract others from what God is trying to do through us for his Kingdom. Keep the end in mind, play to each other’s strengths and let each other shine, and make sure to have fun.

This post originally appeared on Dan Scott’s blog. Used with permission.

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