What Have I Learnt about Leadership, from Baking a Cake?

What ingredients does successful leadership need?

By Pang Zijun, Facilitator/Implementation Consultant, Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | March 20, 2020

Working from home is great!

Yes it is challenging, as communication can be a problem, but spending more time at home also means we can challenge ourselves to do things we always wanted to try.

This morning I decided to challenge myself in a post and decided to bake a chocolate cake, and this is what I learned about leadership from the experience:

    1. Work with what you have. It is quite difficult to always have all the resources we need. So, work with what we have and make the best of it!

I had to roll out a few ideas, chocolate mousse, cheese cake etc. and land on a simple “chocolate cake without cocoa powder” because of the limited ingredients I had.

    2. Try with creativity. When resources are limited, we have to be creative and branch out to other possibilities.

Since I didn’t have cocoa powder, I thought of icing the cake with some cream. Even more, some vanilla flavoured cream. Who doesn’t like the combination of chocolate and vanilla, right?!

    3. Try, but don’t try too hard… Well, this is not contradicting what’s written above at all! While we want to do our best and try our hardest, we always need to remember to be agile and flexible. Running slowly is better than running fast in the wrong direction.

My cake was supposed to have cream on top only but it ended up being covered with cream, because I put too much cream on it and the cream ran down the cake…

    4. Consider your impact, and the surroundings that impact you. As leaders, we are not only responsible for business results, but also our impact on people around us. Good leaders leverage on the environment they are in and make it a healthy eco-system that can produce the best results.

Not sure if the temperature wasn’t right, or if I put too much mixture in the pan, my cake erupted like a volcano (another reason why I needed to cover it with cream afterwards).

I was too fixated in following the recipe without realising that the different flour, oven, environment, temperature etc. all have an impact on the cake. At the same time, I did not realise that my inflexibility had an impact on the cake.

    5. Don’t forget to learn about people who work with us! Leadership is not only about working on strategies, policies and achieving the numbers. Leadership is all about people, even more so during this special time of #WorkFromHome! If we don’t know the people that work with us, our leadership cannot flourish.

Over the years, my colleagues and I have celebrated so many birthdays together. We always eat cakes together in the past, but today was the first time I learned what cakes my colleagues actually like!

Strengthening relationships at work does not necessarily mean we have to sacrifice family time or weekends, it only requires a bit of curiosity and a simple question. Get to know the people we work with, and I am sure we will find ways to work better together as a result.