What do you think about when you see meat and potatoes on a menu? If you are from the south the thoughts you conjure up may be different from someone raised in the north or mid-west. In the south meat and potatoes are a staple; meaning dinner is not a dinner if these two items are not on the table. Meat is a symbol of wealth for many and potatoes are a flexible carbohydrate that can be prepared in many ways. How do you think about all this in context of leadership? If you have been following along as we mapped out this Milk to Maturity journey through the leadership phases then the analogy of meat and potatoes will make sense. If you are just joining our journey, please take a moment and go back to phase one, Pure Milk, and read through the prior phases first. The important thing to note here is that although we are all in different phases at different times, understanding how you got here and where you are going is key.
In the Meat and Potatoes phase the budding leader has arrived. By that I mean they have been recognized as a leader, given the official title, and are being held to a set of expectations common in a leadership role. People trust them and welcome their contributions, they find themselves involved in projects and meetings that are crucial to the success of the organization. What you will recognize in this phase is that the Meat and Potatoes leader needs substance, the leader seeks recognition and affirmation. To this leader recognition and affirmation are their meat and potatoes. Recognition by being included and rewarded while receiving affirmation from peers and senior leaders satisfies their hunger. The leader in this phase has been through some battles, forged some solid business relationships, they have experienced accomplishment, and are starting to mentor others. Success is less defined by money and more defined by wholeness and balance in all areas of life. They are much less focused on themselves and more focused on their team and organization. Money is still important, but it becomes more of a measurement of the value they bring.
IF YOU ARE IN THIS PHASE: Relax. Pace yourself. Over consumption leads to gluttony. This is the phase where you need to think about how to keep your need for recognition and affirmation in check. Channel your energy toward others. Listen more than you speak. Contribute based on a passion to see projects, goals, others succeed and less on what is in it for you. You have proven yourself to be a strong leader, now look for ways to engage deeper with the mentor you established in an earlier phase. Seek here to grow through balance, exposure to areas outside your comfort zone, and start leading from behind.
IF YOU ARE LEADING SOMEONE THROUGH THIS PHASE: The hardest thing for a leader in this stage to hear is that they are just scratching the surface, there is so much more to learn. A lot of times what you will see when mentoring the Meat and Potatoes leader is a sense of pride, after all they have worked hard to get to this place. They are trusted; others come to them when they want to get things done. A leader in this phase may feel that if they want something done right they must do it themselves. This is the time for you to lead them by highlighting events along the road that shaped them into who they are today. Equally important is to share stories about events that shaped you into the leader you are today. Be vulnerable in this phase, they came to you because you have something that they want, so don’t hold back sharing stories, even personal ones. As a mature leader you know that sharing times of failure provide greater impact than sharing the times you succeeded. Let them know that the real meat and potatoes of leadership are the times when you help others succeed. Leading is about learning, and this principle brings us to the final stage where the leader transforms into a life long learner.
photo credit: cooksandeats.com