“Thanksgiving Leadership,” Revisited

This week – Thanksgiving week here in the US – seemed an appropriate time to revisit the ideas of Banquet Leadership, Potluck Leadership, and the hybrid model we call Thanksgiving Leadership.

If you’ve been reading the Building Bridges Leadership blog for a while, you may be familiar with our distinction between Banquet and Potluck models of leadership. In short, Banquet Leadership takes the form of top-down direction; a clear path to follow, wherein your team follows through on assigned tasks. This is efficient and effective in getting things done. Potluck Leadership takes the form of facilitating contributions from your team; inviting unique and personal offerings exploring ideas that might not come from higher up in the organizational hierarchy. This is efficient and effective in building community.

Of course, just as organizations are not always one or the other, neither are meals. This brings us to a third model; a hybrid approach of sorts that is particularly appropriate to look at this week. While the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US has a controversial history and our cultural retelling of it is inaccurate, the traditional Thanksgiving meal can help us reflect on how we lead others.

The Thanksgiving meal, as with many other traditional holiday meals, has one central component that the host focuses on, and that the rest of the group is aware of ahead of time (with Thanksgiving, of course, this is traditionally a roast turkey). Guests typically bring a contribution to the meal, but—unlike a true potluck—the dish they bring is designed to complement and enhance the central component while adding to the overall experience. This still ensures a unified meal, while allowing room for creativity and unique contributions. Similarly, Thanksgiving Leadership allows the leader to present a central vision while allowing the team to bring their own unique flair and contributions to create a more satisfying complete whole.

So how can this be helpful for you and your team this week?

This Week’s Tips:

  1. Reflect on the idea of Thanksgiving Leadership in your workplace and beyond. Consider the hybrid model of leadership. What would it look like in your organization? Would there be value in approaching leadership this way for you? What’s one thing you could do to move towards that today?
  2. Consider the three different models of leadership outlined here: Banquet, Potluck, and Thanksgiving. Each have their advantages and strengths in particular circumstances. Think about which model you are employing in different situations – you may be using a different model in different situations – and ask yourself if another model might serve you and your team better.
  3. If you work in a top-down Banquet Leadership environment, try bringing some “side dish” ideas to the table to complement the “main dish.” This will give you a sense of how open your workplace is to a more collaborative Thanksgiving or Potluck model.
  4. Ask yourself what contributions others on your team have made this year for which you are thankful, and share that with others. If appropriate, ask members of your team how they would answer this question also.

We’d also love to know what you’re thankful for! Let us know how it goes in our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you!

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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