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Unpacking the Myth: The Possibility of Having Your Cake and Eating It Too in Leadership

What are your favourite things? Things that are your go to things? Sometimes we love these things so much that they are set up as defaults in the systems of our lives. Like the radio station in my car.


Whilst listening to my favourite radio station, Impact FM, my ultimate favourite show, Focus on the Family played on. This time, hosts Jim Daly and John Fuller were in conversation with co-authors, Dr. Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey in an episode titled Filling Your Marriage with Joy.


It was whilst listening to the show that I learnt about the CAKE method. This caught my attention, not because my taste buds got tickled or that I love cake and it's my favourite thing, but rather how easily rememberable this would be in my *leadership journey.

*when I say leadership journey, I mean it broadly, taking into consideration the various roles I play in this journey of life.


Pink rainbow sprinkled cake

We’ve all heard of the idiomatic expression, “you can’t have your cake and eat it (too)”. Meaning that you can’t have (and want to keep) two things that are incompatible, different, opposing, etc. - even if they are your favourite things. Like wanting to follow healthier eating habits but falling prey to cholesterol-induced foods. However, when it comes to relationships, any form of relationship, I believe you can have your cake and eat it too!


Using the workplace as an example, we used to hear a lot about how “you can’t befriend your colleagues”. The idea is that, if you are friendly, especially as a leader, people won’t take you seriously. In essence, you can’t be friendly and deliver on expected results. A case in point I don’t agree with. When you look at your parenting from a leadership perspective, how much success have you had in positively influencing your tribe when you’ve led them from a place that is autocratic, authoritarian or legalistic?


🤔Think about that for a moment.


I really do believe you can have it both ways. You can have your cake and eat it too. I will expand on this using what Dr. Warner explained cake to represent:

  • Curious: For a long time our culture has esteemed transactional leadership and trumped anything else. I’m a firm believer in transformational leadership. I believe it is more impactful because at its core is the authentic human connection. Unfortunately, you cannot have a deep connection to something (read someone, as in child, husband, partner, colleague, sibling, business partner, subordinate, senior manager, etc.) if you aren’t curious about them. Curiosity breaks down the walls and builds up intimacy - a meaningful connection between two or more people.


  • Appreciation: like plants that need to be tendered to and nurtured by being watered regularly, human beings are the same. One way to tender to human beings is through appreciation. We want to feel appreciated and our efforts acknowledged. When we are appreciated, our feel-good hormones come together in a joyful dance, fuelling us to do more. When our feel-good hormones are released, we experience an increase in joy and pleasure and a decrease in anxiety, stress and depression. In our relationships (read, leadership) let us be the reason why someone else feels ignited to be who they are meant to be. Through our actions, thoughts and speech, let the next person know you appreciate them purely for who they are and not necessarily for what they bring to the table.

Kindness matters board
  • Kindness: the Oxford Dictionary defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate”. As we journey along life, we go through various highs and lows. In recent years, depression has been labelled as a great concern amongst many people around the world, irrespective of age.


Because we never know what people are going through, we need to be kind in every way. Not only when it’s convenient or suitable for us but at all times when interacting with others. Kindness is not weakness but a strength that leaders need to possess and put into practice. Let’s be honest, when you are abrupt and harsh in your demeanour, you aren’t as impactful or a positive influence.


This quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt sums this point perfectly:

“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fibre of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”

This quote should be a good starting point for reflection. Many times what we exude externally is an illusion of the reality within us. When we are unkind and critical to ourselves, chances are that we’ll be unkind and critical towards others. So, what is deep seated in your heart that prompts your behaviours?


  • Eye contact: forget “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” because we are all beautiful. Haha 😛. Studies have shown that eye contact is an important social cue that activates the required brain activity during communication. I’m certain that I’m not the only one who has locked eyes with a cute toddler asking for something I’d ordinarily say “no” to but end up saying “yes” to?

downloadable "I see you" board

When you hold a gaze with someone, sometimes you are able to see through them. As they express themselves, you can see and experience how they feel just by looking into their eyes.


You cannot see joy, fear or any other emotion in someone if you aren’t looking at them. The minute you lock eyes, you get to connect with them as their eyes give you a glimpse into the emotions welled up inside of them.


Eye contact creates a deeper and more meaningful human connection. I think this is why in our currently super connected world, we still feel so disconnected. Too much screen contact instead of eye contact.


I hope the next time you see or think about cake, you’ll remember these four things: curiosity, appreciation, kindness and eye contact. As leaders in various aspects of our lives, let’s put these four principles into practice daily. Doing so, we can certainly have our cake and eat it too. Total bliss ✨

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