Becoming a Fully Respectful Leader: The Recipe for Gracious Leadership

20 April 2018

A Book Review from a Vanderbilt University Medical Center Administrative Fellow Heather Hubbs

“The positive ripple effect of your gracious leadership carries great potential for many generations to come.” – Janet Smith Meeks

What is your favorite recipe? Maybe it’s a tried and true recipe that has been passed down for generations within your family or maybe it’s a newly found creation from Pinterest. Regardless of the dish, I always find a recipe helpful and I tend to gravitate towards ones that incorporate basic, yet wholesome, ingredients that are readily available.

In the high-stakes, ever-changing, and multidimensional healthcare industry we work in, wouldn’t it be nice if leadership had a recipe? What if the path to becoming the most effective, results-driven, and impactful leader was a formula of skill ingredients that were readily available for us to tap into? How would we lead differently with this knowledge? Fortunately, Janet Smith Meeks has prescribed just the recipe to allow leaders from every industry to attain peak performance while leading in a different, yet better, way. The recipe, however, is not for the faint of heart and allows absolutely no short cuts to be made.

Before revealing the key ingredients, Janet discusses the Head-Heart Connection. Simply put, decisions should be made utilizing both data and hard facts coupled with the broader impact on stakeholders. Contrary to popular belief, leaders can, and should, use both their head and their heart to make decisions; this is a critical factor in becoming an enlightened decision-maker who minimizes adverse results. “When you lead with your head and your heart, you consistently act in the best interest of your key stakeholders and are purposeful in helping employees understand they are doing meaningful work.” This further creates a win-win situation because, “…employees need to experience a connection between what they are motivated to do through their job descriptions and what they are inspired to do from within their hearts.”

After understanding the Head-Heart Connection, it’s now time for the key ingredients, which include the following thirteen strategic components: respect, valuing relationships, listening with purpose and responding with care, seeing problems as opportunities, asking the right questions, matching passion with purpose, developing people, requiring accountability, courage, seeking feedback, providing feedback, compassion, and gratefulness. The ingredients may appear ‘soft’ or too simple, however, they are proven business essentials.

Take recognition, for instance. A 10 year study of 200,000 managers and employees was conducted and disclosed in The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. “According to the data, companies in the highest quartile of recognition of excellence report an operating margin of 6.6 percent, while those in the lowest quartile report 1 percent.” As Janet says, “…employee engagement has been proven time and time again to be a driving force in optimizing and sustaining organizational performance.” Greater results come as common decency and respect are restored back into the workplace and gracious leaders set the stage for the opportune time to achieve “the right results in the right manner”.

As you can see, leadership and recipes are a lot alike. To be successful, all key ingredients must be added. However, both can involve wrong decisions that enable a situation to go awry quickly. Maybe you added baking powder instead of baking soda or maybe you were quick to criticize and slow to listen.

Regardless of the situation, becoming a fully respectful and gracious leader, is a journey and not simply an end result. We as leaders must demonstrate patience and persistence in our quest to effectively lead ours teams and organizations. Burnt dishes are inevitable and failures will happen. However, with practice and perseverance, we can instill respect and positivity in our day to day routine and ultimately create thriving teams and organizations that are bursting at the seams with gracious leaders.

In case I have not made you hungry enough with all of the recipe talk, take a look at one of my personal favorite dessert recipes from Ellie Krieger on the Cooking Channel. It’s a crowd-pleasing, healthier recipe that is sure to impress.

Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta Cream

Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Inactive Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 17 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 180 kcal
Author Ellie Krieger


  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 16 oz strawberries hulled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil leaves cut into ribbons


  1. Put the ricotta cheese, honey and vanilla extract into the small bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

  2. In a small saucepan combine the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely.

  3. In a medium bowl, toss the berries with the basil and the balsamic syrup.

  4. Divide the cream among 4 cocktail glasses, top with the berry mixture and serve.