Every Christmas my wife bakes the most amazing sugar cookies. She has become so good at making them that people have asked her to make them for their special occasions. It’s a very labor intensive process, and when she starts our house resembles more of a bakery than a home. Inevitably, she will complain sometime during this process that the cookies don’t all look the same.
Despite having a myriad of cookie cutters, baking utensils, and decorating tips, there is always some degree of variability in her cookies. In the last post from our 20 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Creation series, we talked about yielding fruit after your own kind or replicating leaders. It sounds like a great place to use a cookie cutter type of approach, doesn’t it? That wasn’t God’s approach though.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
My wife has dozens, if not hundreds, of cookie cutters. She chooses which ones to use based on the occasion. Likewise, God did not create all life in the same manner or for the same purpose. He designed Creation knowing that there would need to be various levels of lifeforms to make it all work as He intended.
We are not all plants, or animals, or male, or female. It’s such a simple concept to grasp, but I’m amazed how many businesses try to produce leaders by pressing them through the same mold. When choosing which people in your organization to groom for future leadership roles you need to expand your vision.
Look for people with a variety of different backgrounds, education, and experience. Pay close attention to their particular talents and strengths and search for roles in your organization where they can make a real impact.
The Need for Flexible Management Programs
It’s interesting that when God went to make a mate for Adam that He didn’t create her the same way. Adam was created from the dusts of the earth (Genesis 2:7), but Eve was made from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21-22). While He created both in His image (Genesis 1:27), He chose different methods to do it.
How are your leadership programs designed? Are they flexible enough to meet the needs of your future leaders at whatever skill set they currently possess? Adam and Eve both shared many similar responsibilities, but both had their own unique strengths and purpose. Even though God started with Adam’s core structure to make Eve, He didn’t simply replicate it – he built upon it.
Rather than think of your management programs as cookie cutters creating exact replicas of your ideal leader, look upon them as a starting foundation that can support multiple forms of leaders grounded in core principles.
Throw Away the Cookie Cutters
Any parent with more than one child will tell you that you have to be adaptive to be a great parent. What motivates one child may discourage another. Parenting guides are a great resource, but following them to the letter in practice rarely produces the desired results.
The same is true with developing leaders. Creating an organization where all of the leaders look alike, sound alike, and think alike may sound like a great model for efficiency; however, the adaptability and creativity you lose in the process is never worth it. IBM learned this the hard way in the 70s and 80s.
Are you still expecting perfect cookie cutter replicas in your leaders? No matter how hard you try to make them the same, like my wife learned long ago, it’s just not going to happen. Concentrate on what you put into your leaders. Make sure it is the best quality of ingredients.
Your leaders will take on their own shape despite your best efforts to keep them uniform. It’s best to just throw away the cookie cutter and give them room to grow. After all, God didn’t use a cookie cutter when He made you.