February 2015

Lead Like a 10-Year-Old

I've been fascinated with a reality TV show called, Masterchef Junior, where kids aged 9-12 compete in a sophisticated cooking show where they create complex dishes I can't even pronounce.  They clearly have a gift for cooking, but that's not what I see as most significant about this show.

Although this is a competition where only one kid will win (and they do want to win), they collaborate, treat each other like true friends, and genuinely console each other when one gets stuck during a cooking challenge.  I've watched the adult version of this show, and the competition is fierce and at times downright ugly.  A drastically different set of behaviors.

Leader-like Actions

The kids are full of amazing talent along with innocence, curiosity, simplicity and a pure desire to help each other.   It is a powerful reminder of how we tend to lose or forget these qualities as we show up in our lives as leaders.  

As Entertainment Reviewer James Poniewozik wrote, "...here are some other things you don’t have on MasterChef Jr. that you do on adult cooking competitions. Viciousness. Spite. Desperation.

Even on the most fun adult cooking competitions, there’s often a subtext of sadness and dire stakes, of the clock ticking: this person really needs to jump start a stalled career, that person has got to have that prize money to start a restaurant or it might be the end of the road...

That’s adulthood: a time when your life starts to get defined by what you’re good at and not, what you chose and did not choose, what you no longer have time to do...

MasterChef Jr., on the other hand, is about believing you can do a thing because you love it. There are broken hearts and tears; a young cook’s face collapses when she realizes that she served judge Gordon Ramsay a piece of undercooked chicken. Yet what happens next is wonderful: the kitchen full of competitors swarm around her, hugging and consoling and trying to convince her that, don’t worry, most of the dish was really good..."

Collaborative Competition

I watched one competitor actually stop cooking (during a timed event) to help a fellow competitor who panicked  with a sauce she was unfamiliar with.  He turned around, gave her a solution, and then returned to his dish.  Unprecedented in a timed competition!  This example of impressive leadership behavior is evident all through this show.  It's clearly possible to showcase your 'talent' and support others at the same time.

These kids are excited about learning (from the judges and each other) and are full of curiosity, talent and bright energy.  Why should we lose those qualities simply because we grow up?  It's a reminder that we have the capacity to compete and excel through healthy behaviors that express respect and care... if we just think back.  

Leadership Lessons

  • Stay curious.
  • Remember the joy in your work and life.
  • Look for ways to help others shine.
  • Ask questions to genuinely understand other perspectives.  
  • Collaborate with pure intentions.  Focus on the big win, not just yours.
  • Build on others ideas.  Watch the collective energy rise.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." —John Quincy Adams

Are you achieving the results you want?
The best leaders make simple shifts or practical changes for big results.  I work closely with leaders to create practical solutions to achieve real success. Let me help you discover what's possible. Visit my website www.terrihughes.com for details.

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