Leadership and the Cookie - Karen Fenaroli

Leadership and the Cookie

A passport, a key card and a cookie — all three are unlikely characters in a story about leadership. But with the right actions, attitude and drive, disruptive leaders can take these unlikely assets and use them to craft a narrative of likely success. Before we get started, it’s important to note that the other essential element of our story is friction. Friction makes and molds the best leaders; it dissolves fear with one fierce punch assuming you have your passport, key card and cookie handy.

The Passport

Seeing, being and thinking happens when we travel. As we explore new geographies, we’re exposed to new cultures, new ideas and new beliefs. Traveling requires a passport, and this passport represents the ultimate access to a broader perspective and better understanding of how the world works. It can then be used to transport our way of leading. In order to be disruptive leaders, we need the friction that new cultures and new life lessons provide.

Perhaps you choose to travel to foreign lands for your own enjoyment and self-investment. Or maybe you travel or have lived in a foreign country for work. Regardless of the “why,” think about the impact such journeys have made on your viewpoint. The benefit of travel makes us more tenacious leaders. It makes us more developed and sensitive global citizens. It makes us more curious, more risk tolerant, more adaptive and more resilient problem-solvers! Adventure and success await those brave individuals who are willing to use their passport to help shape the way they lead.

The Key Card

When you think of a key card, what does it represent? Most would say access. Within the workplace, a shiny new key card may mean access to a new job, new responsibilities or even a new chapter in your career. Whether your key card provides access to a seat at the executive table or the exit door, these new chapters in our lives create friction. The friction comes in the form of turning points and tipping points that help guide us on our winding career paths until we do something really bold and head in a totally new direction.

My friend Mary Bui-Pham is a perfect example. She recently started a new chapter in her career at Oath. The $4 billion start-up is a subsidiary of Verizon and a mash-up of assets from Yahoo! and AOL. As one willing to take the bull by its horns and use friction to her advantage, Mary has accumulated a career of key cards from the likes of DoubleClick, eBay and Yahoo! among others, marking seven remarkable career chapters. Does this sound easy? Of course not. The willingness to identify and use the right key card(s) is uncommon and essential to leadership success.

The Cookie

As our leadership story comes to an end, we have our passport in one hand and key card in the other. Now it’s time to find the future. It’s time to create rooms that don’t exist, to make friends of strangers, to build roads that connect visions with reality and to seek out a cookie. This sweet prize, a token of little significance, symbolizes a willingness to learn, explore and expand our horizons even when our surroundings are uncomfortable and unknown.

My favorite luncheon last month brought together a room full of strangers with a cookie placed strategically on every chair. As the event unfolded, it was clear we attendees had nothing in common except the cookie. Yet we were able to use it as a starting point for engagement, personal growth and network expansion. The leadership point here is that there will most certainly be times in which you face a new room full of people you don’t know (both literally and figuratively). The best and brightest leaders will identify “the cookie” to connect, to will their way forward and to use friction to disrupt in a positive way.

Today’s young leaders seek companies and mentors that push the boundaries, be it in culture, in careers and in cookies. No matter how much we accelerate in technology, in change and in the algorithms of the future, leave it to the cookie to teach us the most about connecting as a disruptive human leader.

What friction in business has helped fuel your leadership? Are there other assets you’ve used to craft your narrative for success? Post a comment on LinkedIn.