Recipe for Leadership

I was recently catching up with a friend and she asked me about a recipe.

If you know this friend of mine, this question wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. You see, Margaret has a passion for food, hospitality, and the joy that happens when people come to the table together. But she will also remind you that some of the things we crave the most cannot be satisfied in a dessert or cheese tray.

Our hearts crave something deeper.

“My deepest hunger was my longing for connectedness and friendship.”     Margaret Feinberg, Taste and See

The recipe she asked me for was…leadership. A tough assignment for someone who loves to cook by instinct with constant tasting and tweaking. I’m not a follow the recipe kind of cook. But that got me thinking.

What makes a leader?

What makes a really good leader?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way is when you bake and develop leadership, you cannot do it alone.

This hunger for connectedness and friendship doesn’t go away based on your job title or position of power. In fact, I’d suggest that those in leadership need to be extra intentional about inviting others to speak into their life.

If you try to do this alone, surely you’ve forgotten a few key ingredients in the recipe.

  • A big ol’ chunk of courage to say what’s really happening.
  • Heaping mounds of discernment and vision.
  • Humility—it comes in many forms and they’re all great in this recipe: developing the habit of sharing the spotlight, active listening, being the last person to speak at the table, asking really good questions.
  • A dollop of non-anxious presence goes a long way.
  • Confession to God and to others as necessary. Keeps the bowl clean and the batter pure.
  • Season with insights from past successes and (this is very important) past failures.
  • A dash of humor – even if you’re not funny, you’ve got to lighten up a little.
  • Continually add intellectual curiosity into the mix or the whole thing grows stale. Keep learning, asking questions, and allow yourself to be completely gobsmacked.
  • Pour grace over everything. This sounds like a cliché, but it’s not.  You’ll go through a lot of it.  Grace offered to others, grace afforded to you.  Never lose sight of that.
  • Heat in the kitchen will get pretty hot at times. Don’t be surprised by that.  But do not let everything fry to a crisp.  This does absolutely no one any good.
  • Make sure you take this mixture out of the heat on a regular basis to cool. Don’t try to “be cool,” that’s actually not an ingredient and usually turns out gross.  Just “cool it” on a regular basis. Step back.
  • Knead it together – this will take effort. Don’t be afraid of the hard work.
  • Sprinkle in various and sundry spiritual gifts—there is no set formula here. Pay attention to how God has created you.
  • Must be made in collaboration with others—leadership has terribly lonely moments, it’s true, but it simply cannot be baked alone. It doesn’t work.  It’ll come out overpowering and tastes terrible.  If you’re having difficulty with inviting others in, you’ve skimped on the self-awareness and probably the humility.
  • Creativity to taste.

While the basic recipe will have some non-negotiables, don’t be afraid of the various spices of personality and experience. Toss in the ingredients I forgot as God nudges you. Make this your own. And do not expect each batch to come out the same.  It won’t.  It shouldn’t.

Celebrate the subtle and shocking differences of the people around you.  That’s a good thing.  It’s also a God thing.


“If we begin to reflect the kind of love that flows between Father, Son, and Spirit–defer, champion, celebrate, forgive, come alongside–If we begin to do this, I believe that we’re going to be more likely to see growth and advancement of the Kingdom.” – Greg Holder


To listen to the whole conversation with Margaret Feinberg and Greg Holder, check out The Joycast Podcast.

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