How to Be a Naturally-Flavored Leader

When I was a kid, I never thought I was a leader. I thought I was the supporting role in my group of friends. From being 5 years old to to I guess high school, I always supported my friends.

I never did any leadership extracurricular activities like student body. I ran a debate club that flopped after 3 meetings.

Leadership happened in college either because I was the best person for the job, or the only way to change things was to do it yourself.

Over my college career, I was captain of a 50 year old lion dancing club, vice president of the food science club, captain of two product development competitions, and lead a diversity initiative involving 1000 people.

Of course people like to shoehorn all of their leadership positions in high school and college and then they get their job and stop completely. Which is fine, because you made it, right?

Well, after accepting a team leadership role at work (no titles, because who cares about titles?) and being elected as the Cactus IFT chair, I might be a more natural leader than I thought.

That or I like to be in control….

What I learned being an Emerging Leader

I got accepted in the Emerging Leader Program at IFT. During that time, I met an amazing amount of passionate people within the industry.

I would highly recommend applying to it next year as it’s now open to the public.

Sign Up For Our Weekly 5 Course Meal

I pick out 5 pieces of content from the latest food industry news to the greatest new products and leave my snarky comments every week.

The class’ main purpose is to teach young professionals how to be better leaders and it’s really summed up in terms of being more credible, taking more risks, and being more emotionally intelligent. All of these kind of synergize well with each other.


Being credible takes time and unfortunately, most young professionals hate to wait. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport does a great job in explaining the concept known as Career Capital, in which over your career, you gain reputation and knowledge which you can eventually exchange for freedom.

As much as I love Cal Newport’s book, he teaches you the the concept and how it’s used, but not how to accelerate it. Like cold, hard cash, there are many ways to increase your career capital faster, such as being an industry expert, making a breakthrough product, or being a super connector.


The subject of risk was hard for people to overcome. We did a Gallup 10tm test. Out of forty people, about 10% scored high on risk. Everyone was risk adverse, or rather, risk mitigating.

I scored high in 4 skills: Disruptor, Risk, Selling, and Delegator. All of these pretty much means I’m a high risk entrepreneur rebel. I would have never thought of myself that 3 years ago.

But enough about me: the concept of risk is very hard to overcome. The value of taking risks is huge, but the fall also hurts. Most entrepreneurs embrace risk. Maybe a bit too much. One philosophy I take with risk is that just like anything you do, enough failures will numb you and you’ll get better.

One of the panelists, the founder of Food Think Design talks about taking small, manageable risks. She started a blog which is pretty low impact but life got into the way and she “failed” her blog.

I’ve failed too. I’ve failed in Ecommerce, Ebooks, Restaurant Reviews, Mentorships, and Relationships.

But sometimes you find a gem that clicks. I’m sure you know the project I’m talking about.

Sometimes, being risk mitigating makes sense. Quality managers, and structured people (which in a leadership course about food scientists, is common) can’t afford risks as it can cause food recalls, and cultural distruction. I argued with a Quality Manager in the event, he was so scared to take risks, I wasn’t but once I learned about his role, it makes a bit more sense that he’s risk adverse.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

It’s a buzzword, but it’s getting more and more important. Reading people is a huge skill and convincing people you don’t like to do something is a godly skill. I would treat EQ as a martial art, similar to Aikido, because the strategies involved in manipulating (I use that word in a good way) people takes training and practice.

Overall, people work to either make money or care for their company. People generally don’t want to get fired or work somewhere they don’t like. Knowing the basic core of why humans work is a great advantage because it allows you to convince them that you’re not trying to kill their career.

People will do a good job with the right incentive but it can be a huge battle that takes a lot of practice.

What I’ve found works with EQ, is that the more unique the personality you have, the less people can read you. If you come across as eccentrically passionate and do your job really well, people start to respect you.

Don’t know how to be eccentric or different? Apparently, people on the panel say that more people should say “thank you” and “good morning”. Start with that.

How they all work together

If you succeed in taking more risks, you can be more credible in a shorter amount of time because the reward for taking those risks is so great. Emotional Intelligence acts as a very powerful persuasive tool to use while dealing with risk. For example, EQ can help you convince others to join you, especially if you have personality issues with other people.

Final Thoughts: You have more power than you think

I really want to drill the point that you have more power than you think.

I seem to think I have a lot of self-confidence but that’s not really true. I shake in my boots when I meet a new person, or try a new idea, or hear my voice while editing episodes.

But I do it anyways because I know the results will be better than it was before.

The easiest way to figure things out is to fix things people often complain about.

Complaints anywhere are opportunities and when you find them, act upon it and fix them.

Do this enough, going farther and farther each time. Who knows where you’ll end up? But I gaurentee you it’ll be better than where you start.








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