I want to talk to you about chocolate cake. I have strong opinions about chocolate cake. I think they may relate to your leadership. Lean in here.
I love chocolate cake and I love the kind our grandmas used to make. You remember them. The cake part was a light, fluffy, chocolaty cake that was moist and airy. It was the perfect delivery system for icing. Grandma’s icing was rich and sweet and fudgy and tasted great on a wooden spoon when she let you lick the last bit of icing from it.
Now, this cake always had a wide vein of icing going through it. In other words, when you cut a triangle from the round cake—and it was always round and six to eight inches high—there was a perfect vein of chocolate icing going right down the middle. It was almost like you were getting two pieces of cake with each piece, this icing vein setting the two halves apart.
That was it. Cake and icing melded into perfection. Let’s be clear about what was not there. There was no mocha anything. Nothing was ever stuck into the icing unless it was your birthday and the things stuck were candles.
There was no drizzle of some dang fruity mess. There was no cream cheese or Oreo bits or God knows anything green and leafy. There was no adulteration at all. The cake was just like the kind that came over on the Mayflower, that Washington and Lincoln ate, and that caused the Allies to win World War II. You get me. It was cake as God intended.
Now, I had not gotten very old in this life when I realized that grandma-type cakes were in short supply. Communists and insurgents had taken over cake-making and couldn’t leave well enough alone. They had to mess with it. They had to do stuff to it. They had to adulterate.
I realized that if I was going to have good old chocolate cake, I was going to have to learn how to make one. My wife is an awesome cook but she is also a gourmet so she has been influenced by foreign agents. If I wanted grandma cake, I had to learn to make grandma cake. I had to make sure my children knew what grandma cake was. I had to make grandma cake part of my culture. I had to insert it into the world if it was important and missing—and it was.
And that right there is the leadership moment. Something needs to be in the world. You don’t sit around bitching that someone else isn’t providing it. You don’t pine away for the good old days. You don’t get mad that Washington is sending you cakes. You master it. You make it. You place it centrally in your life. You win others to it. You re-introduce the lost art and flavor and occasion and skill and impact into the world.
That’s what leaders do. They make the cakes that need to be made to get the world right again. Griping, mourning, hoping, blaming, resenting, giving up, and all other such things are not leadership. Make the dang cake. Win others to the cause of cakes. Build a culture of rightly made cakes. Restore cakes to the world.
That’s the deal. Now, go make the cakes you need to make, the cakes you can clearly see the world is doing without. You were made to make your kind of cake. Get on with it.