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Gut Check: Do You Love to Lead?

I have always done the majority of the cooking in my family. I love it, even though I think I’m just okay at it.

On the other hand, my wife Liz does not enjoy cooking at all. This despite the fact that her father was a chef and her parents owned restaurants while she was growing up.

It’s been this way in my house—me cooking, my wife, not so much, but helping with prep and clean up—for so long that I hadn’t really thought it was significant in any way. That was, until I read an interesting article in hbr.org, where author Eddie Yoon shared research he has conducted over the past twenty years specifically around people’s relationship to cooking. According to Yoon, we can be slotted into three principal categories:

  1. Those who love to cook and cook often. That’s me.
  2. Those who hate to cook. They either let someone else do the cooking, or eat out. That’s Liz.
  3. Then there are those who like to cook some of the time, and eat out some of the time.

When the author first did his research 15 years ago, he found that 15% of people he surveyed loved to cook, 50% hated to cook and 35% were somewhere in the middle.

However, more recent data reflects a considerable shift in these original patterns.  Today only 10% of people say they love to cook, 45% hate it and 45% are in the middle.

The evolving trend away from cooking seemed counter-intuitive to me given that the popularity of food shows and networks is at an all-time high. It seems people today spend more time obsessed with watching cooking shows, reading about cooking on social media, than they actually spend time cooking themselves.

Yoon feels these trends can pose a risk to grocers if they do not adapt to the new realities emerging through his research findings.

Many grocery stores have been responding by offering more take-out and ready-to-eat meals in their stores. Meal delivery services began in earnest around 2012. Right now it is estimated to be a $400 million dollar industry and it’s expected to grow ten-fold in the next five years. That’s staggering growth projections.

However, for me, this trend away from cooking is worrisome. I’ve always believed cooking is more than just an act of preparing a meal. It’s also a cultural experience. It’s at the core of family relationships. When we start to eat out, or order in, more than we cook, we may be abandoning important links that keep the family unit strong and relationships vital.

Now, one of the realities of being a leadership adviser is I can’t read anything without making a connection back to my work. And so as I reflected on this research and trends related to cooking and the grocery industry, I began to see parallels with my own work in leadership.

After reading the hbr.org article, I realized that in my world, we almost never ask leaders if they love to lead. I started to wonder—if we did ask that question, how many leaders would admit that they love what they do?

It’s a pretty safe bet that like Yoon’s work, in leadership we would find a percentage of leaders who love what they do, there would be some who hate it and yet another group that were somewhere in the middle—don’t hate it but don’t really love it.

As I thought about these categories, I started to think that the last two are most interesting. I meet quite a few leaders who I believe actually hate what they do. They feel trapped by the prestige of the title, the money, the power and perks and stay in the job even though the role really isn’t in their blood. Leaders in this camp really need to pause and take a hard look at themselves.

As I see it, this isn’t going to produce good results. There is no way a restaurant can succeed with an ambivalent chef. It’s the same for leaders: you can’t succeed in a leadership role without passion for the job.

I talk to leaders all the time who find themselves stuck in this scenario. They either have come to hate their role, or are simply ambivalent. In both cases, if you don’t act, you end up going through the motions day in and day out. You do not do yourself, the people you lead, or your organization any favors.

And when it comes to leadership, there isn’t a take-out version that you can order on the fly on some app. When you are in a leadership role, you must do all the cooking yourself. You must embrace the role, and even love it.

For this blog, I would like to hear from you. Leave a simple comment on LinkedIn. Tell me, do you love to lead?

This week’s gut check for leaders asks: do you love to lead?

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About the Author

Vince Molinaro is a speaker, consultant, executive at Lee Hecht Harrison, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Leadership Contract now in its third edition.

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