Being A Great Leader Is A Cakewalk

Cakewalk - An absurdly or surprisingly easy task; – Achieve or win something easily - Oxford English Dictionary

Walking around the heritage buildings of Mumbai with some great leaders, engaging in stimulating conversations about food, relishing and savouring some of the best food Mumbai has to offer – the #SodexoCXOFoodwalk on Saturday evening was memorable for more reasons than one. The architectural ambience and the rich history made an impressive backdrop for great conversations, interspersed with mouth-watering, gastronomic delights.Discovering traditions and flavours of cuisines gathered and handed down over generations and finding the enduring wisdom and values acquired by these leaders over the years was a heady experience. Replete with good food and reflecting on the key take-aways after thefoodwalk, the one aspectthat struck me was the ease with which theseleadersbore the mantle of leadership. Stephen Covey rightly said ‘Leadership is a choice, not a position’, and on Saturday, the eclectic group around me demonstrated the same. So here is what I learned from the evening’s walk and conversations:
  • Great leaders are far-sighted, yet present in the moment – Observing the group of dynamic leaders, I realised these leaders were always fully present and aware. A great leader hones mindfulness to perfection, be it their personal life or the professional one. Be it the food, the conversations or simply absorbing the atmosphere, the participants of the walk were always centred in the moment. Yet all of them had complete clarity of visionregarding where, what, why and how much.
  • Great leaders are great listeners, and extremely effective communicators – As we wound our way through the walk, the lively interactions between the participantswas an eye-opener. From weighing the impact of little known spices to discussions on best ways of preparing even the most mundane dish – the leaders were able to glean outtreasured culinary secrets and share success (and kitchen disaster) stories. Ensuring each participant went back home richer in knowledge than before.
  • Greatness goes hand-in hand with strength of character, integrity, decisiveness and humility– Integrity,being ethical, taking responsibility, being genuine and true to values they believe in – essential ingredients for being a great leader, with humility being the core base that allows other subtle flavours to shine through. When one selectsto taste a dish after an in-depth analysis of not just the recipe but also the cooking style, the decisiveness shines through. And business decisions, after all, merit the same thorough study and analysis of facts.
  • Great leaders are brilliant strategists– What does foodhave to do with (or say about) the keenness of a human mind? Plenty, if the evening was any indication. Chalking the route so as to make the most of the gastronomic delicacies on offer without missing out on any,and deciding how much to eat of which dish, the leaders with their witty banter and inspiring exchangesemphasised that sharp, incisive minds and brilliant tactics are the best weapons a leader has.
  • Great leaders are focused, yet do not hesitate to challenge, question and change direction, if need be–The critically appreciative comments on the diverse variety of culinary masterpieces on offer, the complete focus on relishing and enjoying the evening and its delights, the willingness to taste and try the new, the insistence on knowing the history of each and every place, and the conversational detours – the evening served to reinforce what I already knew. Great leaders are humble enough to admit what they don’t know and learn from others, thrive on challenges, are focused and believe in inspiring people to greater heights.
What is being a great leader all about? The ability to get the best out of people, inspiring and encouraging the team by leading from the front and showing how it is done – great leaders in every field, be it in the army, politics, sports, business or community are those with foresight and vision, courage and confidence, integrity and humility, focus and commitment, communication and clarity, inspiration and encouragement. Traditional wisdom and local knowledge last long, be it in the business environment or in the simple yet exotic local food. They help us navigate the challenges in life. Or as the leaders at Saturday’s #SodexoCXOFoodwalk would say “make leadership a cakewalk.”