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Hands-on leadership from the bakery

Warren Brown
Warren Brown is the owner and founder of CakeLove bakeries and author of the May, 2010, book United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State. Watch him talk about his baking, business and leadership style in our video series.

Leadership only happens when you pursue your goals. Believing that you can achieve your goals takes courage. There are so many naysayers in our world that it's easy to become discouraged even before you get started.

Leading myself to launch CakeLove began with convincing myself that it was possible. That took a lot of time in front of the mirror, psyching myself up for long days of baking, marketing the business, and developing a network of supporters. Before there was CakeLove, I spent a decent amount of time wondering what I should do with my life. When I realized cake could be my future I still had to figure out how to get there.

Everyone can be a leader in their own lives. Some might be natural leaders who just divine what it takes to get the job done, others might be capable leaders who focus on getting the job done, and perhaps talented ones show regard for others and the world, exercise restraint, are humble, and remain decisive in the face of adversity or uncertainty. From my vantage point, leadership is a skill that one can improve, but only with regular practice.

I believe setting a good example with hands-on work is the best way to lead. I think working in at CakeLove is fun, and I love being in our bakeries! But it became abundantly clear early on that I can't do everything. Running a business takes a village and leading one comes down to asking others to do stuff for you. And in a scratch-made bakery there's loads to do!

In mine or any organization it takes a lot of awareness to understand individual and group dynamics to find the best approach to lead, whether it's recruiting help for complex problem solving, baking off cupcakes for big orders, or the less-than-glamorous but oh-so-necessary detail cleaning.

While I get a chance to practice leadership everyday at CakeLove, that's not where I find myself the most engaged. Taking charge of my health is my greatest opportunity to lead. That's where I'm pushed harder than anywhere else--and it's where the rewards will be greater and better than anything I could achieve elsewhere.

When I talk about health, I don't just mean being fit. I don't just mean eating only whole grains and muesli 24/7--I own a bakery after all! Living without sweets and treats would be miserable. My goal in life is to reach a level of personal satisfaction that touches my spirit, my soul, my mind and my body. What it means for me is keeping a practical approach to living that's honest and direct.

For me, being practical is the same as being realistic. Leadership that doesn't heed reality won't find a following. Reality in my life means listening not just to my body, but also my gut. My inner voice, spirit, and soul all get a say in leading me to better health. It works out in very plain ways: I know I want dessert in my life, so I'll face the facts and keep my work out schedule. This way I get to take the one that I want, when I want it. Satisfaction in the soul doesn't have to begin with the stomach, but it has to begin somewhere.

I find myself better off when I listen to the cues my body gives me. Honing in on my own signals did take time, but mostly it took a commitment to listen to my inner voice rather than ignore it. When I stopped ignoring myself I just saw a happier me. Really. It was a lot easier to feel the impact of this in the calmness of my soul and spirit versus any physical work-out. The resolve to change career from lawyer to entrepreneur-baker is one blossom that came from the clarity of a quieted mind.

By Warren Brown

 |  April 28, 2010; 5:56 AM ET |  Category:  Personal Leadership Journey Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I appreciate Warren's points, many of which allude to trusting your instincts as a leader. His honesty in discussing the "psyching yourself up" factor needed by all entrepreneurs is also very resonant.

Posted by: nextgenwomen | April 28, 2010 7:39 PM

Is he now the DC Area guru on everything? I hate this guy.(it's a joke people I actually know him)

Posted by: ChinoDaLegend | April 28, 2010 8:46 AM

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