Owners Start With Recipes

Colors Even as owners, we want the recipe before we want to learn the theory and the practice. It’s natural. It’s to be expected. In fact, it’s what’s right to do.

I learned a lot of different musical instruments growing up. Most times, a teacher would show me the notes, teach me a scale, and set me to practicing my scales. Only one instructor, my guitar teacher, asked me “Which song would you like to learn?”

Guess which instrument I reach for when the mood strikes?

I’ve made a mistake over and over again. I continue to believe that we don’t want recipes, that we don’t want leaders. But neither are true.

Leaders and Recipes

I grew up believing that everyone wants to do their own thing. I thought that no one really wanted to follow a leader, and that we’d much rather head off in our own direction and just build the universe from scratch. It turns out, I’m very wrong.

We love leaders. We love when someone is confident and steps up with a helpful plan. And we love more than anything when a great leader shows us how to do something for ourselves.

That last part is the tricky part.

You see, a leader isn’t an “orderer.” There are plenty of people who can order one around. A leader shows lets us in on the magic trick. A leader shows us how to do it, too. A leader gives us a great shot at not only learning the recipe, but equips us to shine and make our own improvements.

But That Means There’s a Recipe

In the past, I learned 1/2 of the formula. I learned how not to order people around. What I’ve come to learn is that I still have to start with the recipe. Over and over, I tend to stand in front of people and say, “here’s the pantry! There’s lots of great stuff in here. MAKE something!” And I walk off with my hands raised, nodding to myself as if, “Yeah! I really taught them something. They’re probably in there just cooking and thanking the hell out of me.”

Um, no.

If I don’t show you what I know, and if I don’t show you how to cook a “something,” you might not feel confident enough to first replicate that something, and then vary and create your own magical dish.

In my courses, we’re working on the recipes, so you can learn them, own them, and lead.

Please forgive me for misunderstanding this transaction in the past. I’m learning. As all owners do.

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  • http://MyMarketingCompass.com/ Billy Delaney

    Yes to this post. I was trained in the Royal Navy School of Cookery. When you understand recipes you come to understand food. Then you learn what you can get away with when you mix things. I liked this post.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Ah nice!

      • http://MyMarketingCompass.com/ Billy Delaney

        Thanks. Micheline stars next right?

  • http://benfranklinfollies.com/ Sheree Martin

    This is the biggest thing for me to learn with my vision. Because I’m not that interested in recipes, literally or metaphorically.

    I like figuring things out. It’s mostly easy for me. Figuring it out means I retain what I’ve learned.

    But I’ve come to realize that most people don’t like to experiment.

    I learned to cook by watching my mother and grandmothers. They rarely followed recipes. But once I learned the basics I did follow recipes for a while when cooking something novel (and still do, if I’m baking).

    That said:

    Isn’t this post a little bit in conflict with the “Crazy” post?

  • http://ClimbingEveryMountain.com Mary E. Ulrich

    HI Chris,

    I like your ideas about recipes and leaders.

    I’m a life-long learner. I have file cabinets (hey, I’m old, and before computers) full of those tricks and special sauces for teaching pre-school through adults based on what works. When the recipes flop, I adjust and improve. Sometimes the recipes are passed down from my teachers/mentors. I am a leader and know the only thing that is important is giving my students what they want and need. I am just the cook in the kitchen.

    I’m also a parent of an adult with autism. I know some tricks, some great ingredients, but there are few recipes. Sometimes I am a leader, but I know I can’t do it alone. I yearn for someone else to step up and help solve some of the problems. There are few leaders–even amoung the professionals who are paid to lead.
    So bottom line, I need more recipes and more leaders. Think I’ll start with chocolate.:)

  • Robin Reid

    Yes, indeed. That is why if you want to lead a business, learn first how to be a good employee.

  • Mary Rosenbaum

    Very good post and well put. It makes creativity and innovation more attainable. It’s not about creating a whole new wheel but rather altering it so it works better for you and for those you might teach in the future.

  • http://markharai.com/ Mark Harai

    I love your simple breakdown of leadership, Chris…

    Many in positions of authority are just douchebags ordering people around, which is the furthest thing from being a leader.

    A great thought-leader of our time said these words and its what great leadership is built on;

    “You can have anything you want in life if you will help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar

    Cheers, sir! : )

  • http://LeadershipDoneRight.com/ Brandon Jones


    I really like the examples you use in this post. You make a great point that most people say that they want to learn everything themselves but they really don’t. People want a leader to teach them how to do something and then have that person get out of the way and let them do it. Leaders play a vital role in life and their role extends to many aspects of life. Leaders come in the form of teachers, coaches, parents, friends, writers, etc. Each plays a vital role in helping us to be a better person to become our best self.

    Thanks for the great post Chris!

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