What Leaders Can Learn From Homemade Bread

This post is written to celebrate Homemade Bread Day, and while it may seem strange to connect homemade bread and leadership, please get past the quirkiness and follow along. I believe there are powerful points that follow, even if you aren’t (gasp!) a fan of homemade bread.
As I made notes to create this article, I thought about the things that make homemade bread so special and tied them to important leadership ideas. Most importantly though, I have chosen to provide you with a challenge related to each of those connections. If you have a recollection of a great slice of homemade bread, revel in that as you read.
There is Positive Anticipation
Several important people in my life have made homemade bread, including my mother, wife and mother-in-law. All of them make excellent bread. But the person I most connect homemade bread with is my Grandmother. She made it every week for most of her life, and it was awesome. And as a kid I can remember the anticipation of knowing it was €bread day€ and the feeling of walking in knowing bread would be baking, or hopefully, already be out of the oven.
As a leader, people likely have some anticipation of your arrival for a meeting, or what to expect when you walk into their work area. While it may not carry the fond positive emotions I have just described, what do they anticipate?
As a leader, how do people feel when they think about your presence, your actions and the way you lead? Is it positive? If not, how can you begin to change that anticipation, even a little bit starting today?
The Effort Required is Necessary and Noticed
Anyone can go to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. Making bread requires forethought, planning, effort and time. Even before you take your first delicious bite, you know that effort and care went into creating what you are about to enjoy.
Anyone can be promoted to a role of leadership. Doing it well goes far beyond a job title. To be even marginally effective you must work at it. To become significant (or as I would say remarkable) at it requires dedicated effort to get better at the skills required, and a care for those you are leading. The effort and care will be noticed, as will the lack of it if you lead like a loaf of nondescript store brand white bread.
How much effort are you putting into your role as a leader? If you care about the organization and the people you lead, how does it show?
It Creates Something More
The Grandma homemade bread experience was about more than the bread. It started with the smell. It was inviting. It drew you in, the warmth and aroma adding to the experience. It wasn’t just about a piece of bread for sustenance.
The best leaders are also creating something more – something more lasting, something more real. They aren’t just €doing the work€ of a leader, but rather are creating a place and an environment where people can grow and thrive.
What are you creating for your team?
It is Unique
No two loaves of homemade bread are exactly alike. In the store, all are the same. Pick up five and you can’t tell them apart. But homemade, all are a bit different in how the ingredients interacted with the pan and the heat. They are wonderfully different – and that actually makes it better.
Great leaders know they don’t need to be, nor should they strive to be, like any other leader. Yes, they need to learn and grow and adapt. Yes, they need to apply principles that will improve their ability to be successful. And yes, they need to be themselves. There is no one perfect way to lead – you must bring yourself, imperfections and all, to the role.
Are you willing to continue to improve but still be yourself? Are you willing to let your team see you as a human as well as a leader?
I made more connections than these between homemade bread and leadership, but I believe these are the strongest and most powerful. If you think of other connections, please ponder and share them as well. Mostly though I hope you leave these words hearing my challenges, and taking them on in your own leadership journey.
I also hope this was helpful, and that I didn’t leave you feeling too hungry.