What happens when milk goes bad in the fridge? What is your first reaction when you open the milk carton and it’s curdled? If you were like me, you would most probably groan and lament thinking of the cereal you will not eat that morning. Or that milkshake you were craving for. Plus there would be a trip to the store to replenish supplies.
However, the same milk is a treasure in waiting. One morning, my wife brought a bottle of milk for me to carry out the sniff test. “Is it still fresh?” she asked me. The sharp, tangy whiff advised my olfactory senses to the contrary. “Then we can make some cottage cheese!” she exclaimed. According to wikihow.com, cottage cheese makes a delicious light breakfast or lunch when served with fruit or a salad. Food that is healthy, nutritious, and fun.
Left to me, I would have thrown out the milk and ran to the store for a fresh bottle. That would have been a logical response. However, thinking of transforming bad milk into something useful is a response that is based on an innate process that goes beyond the ordinary. It is a prism that brings issues to life across the full spectrum of light.
And that brought me back to some thoughts about leadership. When you are a leader, many different issues get thrown at you. You will find yourself on the hot seat, going through acid tests and facing constant evaluation. However, as you go through these motions and emotions, you need to remain focused on your vision and planned action.
The making of cottage cheese opened me up to some parallels of authentic leadership.
“It is what it is…until you decide to change it.” Dan Forbes
Transformation: Milk is heated, acid (lemon juice) added to it, and then allowed to rest. This is the process that aids the separation of the curds from the whey. Heat is the refining moment of any leader. To separate a metal from the ore in which it is found in nature, heat and abrasion are necessary. A leader is should always keen to face new challenges with zeal. Growth is not straightforward, it will be painful, but therein lies the gem. Adapt to the hot moments and win, resist and life becomes very complicated! [TweetMe]
Separation: The curds and whey are poured into cheesecloth. This isolates the curd (good stuff) from the whey (impurity). As a leader, you will constantly need to identify the challenges you and your followers face. Address them as soon as they crop up [TweetMe]. Some wise soul once said that a stitch in time saves nine. It may mean cutting back on a process that is curtailing the growth of your business. It could be transitioning a worker to a role where they are more productive and that better suits their skills and mindset.
“If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Sir Ken Robinson
Mentoring: Gather the ends of the cheesecloth and hold it under cool water to rinse the curds. Continue until they are completely cooled, then squeeze the cloth to get the curds as dry as possible. Leaders need to listen more keenly to the echo of those under their leadership [TweetMe]. In this digital age, there is so much information that is stimulating our minds and thoughts. Avail time to engage with your followers. It could be through face-to-face discussions, town-hall meetings or even a videocast where teams are dispersed. However, by all means, walk with your followers.
Commission: The curds are placed in a bowl and the salt and heavy cream added. Do not stop at just providing leadership to people. It makes for an even greater impact if you can inspire some of them into becoming leaders. Therein lies your legacy. [TweetMe]
Have you considered what your legacy will be? How are you cultivating it?
photo credit: brutalSoCal via photopin cc