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Monday, November 28, 2020

Read The Label First

My wife is a careful purchaser of any type of packaged food. She wants to know what’s in the jazzy packaging. In particular, she wants to see the ingredients. Since I sometimes do the shopping, I’ve learned never to bring home anything that won’t pass her “Did you read the label first?” test.

Slow Leadership is based, in part, on the ideals of the Slow Food movement that began in Italy. Slow Leadership aims to restore the healthful ingredients, interesting texture, rich taste and inherent goodness to the practice of being a leader. Since that’s our mission, reading the “list of ingredients” on leadership ideas is essential, before they can pass the Slow Leadership test of nutritional benefit.

Today’s highly marketed leadership fads are exactly like big food brands: a manufactured commodity, flashy on the outside, but filled with cheap ingredients, thirdhand ideas and articial additives dreamed up by marketing gurus. Natural ingredients take time and skill. They’re variable and easily spoiled. Throw them out, then, and replace them with the managerial equivalents of MSG or high-fructose corn syrup: ingredients you can be sure of, since they’re made to be standardized and homogenized.

That’s why so many books on conventional leadership are big on panaceas and instant solutions. They have eye-catching covers, usually splashed with exaggerated claims and a big picture of the author looking smug and prosperous. Like the sellers of chemical additives for food, these writers are selling you something they think any idiot, anywhere, can be seduced into buying. Of course, they think you are an idiot, so you’ll need an approach that sounds good to anyone with neither skill nor understanding. Never mind the carcinogens and the impact on obesity and tooth decay, feel the hype. This stuff is new! The latest discovery! And it’s low fat (or low carbohydrate, or whatever)! Just don’t look at the rest of the ingredients. Okay, it has more sugar than most people need in a year, but it’s still low fat. Six easy steps to leadership mastery, no previous experience or intelligence required. And if it doesn’t work, my new book will be out next quarter with an even fancier cover.

The difference between real leadership and the pre-packaged, instant, chemically enhanced kind is like the difference between making homemade soup and opening a package of powdered instant stuff. Homemade soup needs real ingredients. It takes skill and time to prepared and cook. It tastes good (if you’re a half-decent cook) and it’s highly nutritious. Packaged soup only needs water and heat. Sure, there were real ingredients there once, but the manufacturing process has reduced them to bits of undifferentiated dry matter, enhanced with salt and chemicals. The most nutritional part is the picture on the package. Best of all, no skill whatsoever is required for preparation.

Could you call someone a gourmet cook, if all they did was reheat frozen dinners and prepare meals from packages and tins? No more can you call someone a leader who rehashes pre-prepared, artificial approaches bought from some guru or consulting firm that’s adept in making cheap trash look like the real thing.

Highly-marketed leadership techniques share another trait with big brand, manufactured foods: they’re generally sold on the idea of saving time. No time to cook? Throw this in the oven with a pound of minced beef and a jug of water, and have a meal in ten minutes that will make your family’s eyes water (probably from the salt, chemicals and carcinogenic additives). No time (or inclination) to become a genuine leader? Follow these ten guaranteed steps to become a smash hit on your first outing as the person in charge. No need to understand or think. Simply follow the easy to grasp instructions, written specially for nincompoops like you.

Do the sellers of these “leadership” techniques make money? Of course they do. Just like the people who write “How to become a millionaire with no financial understanding and ten dollars to start.” They became millionaires on exactly that basis, by writing the book and selling it to people too careless and greedy to understand it’s all hype. If it really was that easy, the world would be full of multi-millionaires — and businesses would all be run by superb managers and leaders. Is that what you see around you? I didn’t think so.

Read the label first.

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