Saturday, September 29, 2007

Leadership - Spread it like butter

This week I read a thoughtful and memorable quote in Don't be a Leadership Hog by blogger Miki Saxon on Leadership Turn. She says,

Leadership is like manure, it produces the best results
when spread around.

Miki describes the benefits of pushing responsibility and leadership opportunities to every corner of the organization. It provides a number of developmental and productivity benefits.

I totally and wholeheartedly agree with the underlying principles. The sharing of leadership is perfectly consistent with the Quiet Leadership principle of building community.

However, I don't feel the same about the analogy.

Maybe it's my Minnesota farm boy background. I spent enough time pitching and spreading manure to be able to speak with some expertise. Here is my issue. Regardless of how much you spread it, it is still _______. (You can fill in your own favorite four-letter word if you prefer or use just use manure.) It is simply distasteful no matter how thin you spread it. Leadership should not be distasteful.

It caused me to question. Is there another spreadable metaphor that doesn't carry the same image or memory? I came up with butter.

Here in Minnesota, you start with your standard one pound box of Land O' Lakes butter with 4 quarter sticks. Take a knife and cut off about one half inch or about one teaspoon of butter. Not many people can eat a teaspoon of butter straight from the stick. You can try it if you like. Not me.

Most people would say that if you spread it onto a piece of bread or toast, the true taste and pleasure makes it mark. Kind of like leadership, butter is best when it is spread around.

Now imagine if the butter is cold and you try to spread it onto a piece of bread. You usually end up splitting the bread. Cold, macho leadership does the same with teams.

If the butter is warm, it spreads easier and the butter is easily accepted into every pore of the bread. Kind of like quiet, thoughtful leadership. Spreads easily. Easily received.

And, if the butter is totally melted, imagine the ecstasy of shrimp or scallops performing synchronized swim routines in the butter warmer. This is like servant leadership where the butter gives up it own identify to only serve and influence.

Please read the Leadership Turn post and it great leadership principle. However, I prefer to spread butter over manure.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


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