What We Learned about Leadership from Chef Alton Brown

Argus Leader
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Food Network star, celebrity chef, and bestselling author, Alton Brown is the infamous host of Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen. His humorous commentary will cause several occasions of LOLs throughout these shows. Last night, those LOLs echoed throughout the Sioux Falls pavilion as Alton nailed his performance Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour.

Throughout his performance, Alton Brown entertained all of us with his storytelling, his quick wit, his demonstrations, his inventiveness, and his passion. We see how these qualities apply to all educational leaders. And seriously…aren’t we educators prone to entertainment and performance these days? Below we share our insights on these six entertaining talents needed for leaders:

Performance: Educational leaders perform every day…in the classrooms, in the office, in the boardroom, in the decisions we make. When you think about it, every single one of us is a performer each and every day. Great performers include their audiences, and Alton did just that. He talked with us; he asked for volunteers; he included us. Educational leaders: don’t go at your performance alone; involve your people. Are you acting solo?

Storytelling: Alton had our laughing muscles hurting as he told stories from his first time on Iron Chef Japan. We were captivated by his recreation of the time he had to eat trout ice cream. Yes, you read that correctly…trout ice cream! Ice cream that contained not just trout pieces, but the WHOLE fish. Educational leaders need to be storytellers. We must capture the positive happenings in our schools. We can share these stories with the community through social media and other appropriate means. If we don’t tell our school’s story, someone else will. Who is telling your story?

Humor: We laughed so hard we cried. Alton can get his audience laughing through his stories, his facial expressions, and the sometimes pun that he used. Educational leaders can do the same. Laughing with your people daily will build respect among your people, and will ease frustration and uncertainty. Young and old alike remember the educational leader who could make them laugh. Get a dose of some daily humor by checking out some educational puns. Who did you share a laugh with today?

Demonstrations: Alton created an ice cream maker using a fire extinguisher. A VERY LARGE fire extinguisher. He demonstrated for the audience on how this ice cream maker works. Alton asked his volunteer to put on safety glasses to ensure protection just in case something blew up. Educational leaders need to demonstrate protection for their people; to not just tell the “how” of a situation but also the “why.” This will earn trust and respect, which will protect educational leaders from those possible blow-ups in school. Did you remember to put on your safety goggles today?

Argus Leader
                       Argus Leader

Inventiveness: Easy Bake Oven…Alton wanted one of those when he was a kid. He took care of that desire by inventing his own version of the Easy Bake Oven. Alton’s assistant rolled it out onto the stage, and voila, Alton unveiled his Mega Oven. Alton’s assistant didn’t know how to flip a pizza. Alton taught her. Educational leaders need to be inventive by creating new ideas within the four walls of the school. If the people they lead are unsure, then the educational leader must teach them. Include them in the inventive brainstorming. What did you bake today?

Argus Leader
                    Argus Leader

Passion: For two hours and 45 minutes, Alton had the attention of the audience. How does a person engage the audience for that long without boredom setting in? Passion. Alton was very passionate about what he did. His voice was enthusiastic; his actions were enthusiastic. It was obvious he was on an adventure with us, and he was filled to the brim with passion. Educational leaders need to lead with this same sense of passion and share that passion with your people – students, staff, stakeholders. What are you passionate about?

Stay Calm & Lead On!

Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

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