In a recent conversation with Ervin (Earl) Cobb on my podcast, KnolShare with Dr. Dave, I learned the metaphor of Gumbo provides a lens to see how we can help leaderless leaders to find their mojo. Gumbo is a Cajun soup popular in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. There are different types of Gumbo to satisfy a consumer’s palette. The Gumbo dishes include 1) chicken & sausage, 2) seafood, and 3) vegetarian. My preference would be the vegetarian Gumbo.
In my research about Gumbo and leadership, I discovered the book “The Gumbo Coalition” written by Marc Morial and the Foreword provided by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO. Morial, stated “the strength and compassion New Orleanians needed in their many hours of need were missing in action from the leaders who could have made a difference”. The discovery was leaderless leaders were absent to help people during the Katrina hurricane crisis.
The condition of the Leaderless Leader is the absence of leadership demonstrated by one or more individuals that are responsible to create an environment for people and the organization to deliver value for customers and the organization’s stakeholders and shareholders.
My recommendation for the Leaderless Leader(s) is embrace and demonstrate the three traits of 1) empathy, 2) accountability, and 3) deliver value.
First, start with empathy for people . Walking in another person’s shoes and feeling their pain is a powerful place to imagine their reality. Empathy is a staple in Design Thinking that help leaders connect with other people’s pain points and gain points. You begin by discovering the real pain of others by asking questions and showing up to have conversations. The discovered challenges can be turned into opportunities to provide an outcome of value.
Second, be accountable and hold others accountable. Delegating is a wonderful art, but create a feedback loop that answers the question, how will we know when we are done. Set a time box to have frequent conversations about progress. Share the results with others so they can learn from the experiences.
Third, deliver value to customers and the organization’s stakeholders and shareholders. My definition of value is a measurable outcome that can be realized and shared. When we understand people’s pain and gain points, we can begin to describe and define the value to be delivered. Asking questions and receiving feedback will help to provide a more accurate value outcome.
In summary, the ingredients for my Leaderless Leaders Gumbo, includes 1) empathy, 2) accountability, and 3) deliver value. The practices of empathy, accountability, and deliver value are core to leaders but is not the exhaustive list of traits that Leaderless Leaders can use to be more effective in creating an environment for people and the organization to deliver value for customers and the organization’s stakeholders and shareholders.
Marc Morial. (2020). The Gumbo Coalition: 10 leadership lessons that help you inspire, unite, and achieve.