A recipe for leadership

Discovering a new way to think about leadership

25 August 2021

When we think of great leaders and what defines them, we can sometimes get lost in a world of buzzwords and articles that go into great depths to explain what it means to be a leader.

Some will list their qualities, and name great leaders throughout history. Many will give tips to develop great leadership skills, but most fail to explain what makes a good leader. Like with most recipes, leadership isn’t fool proof or defined – it depends on the individual, and it can be tailored to everyone.

Together with the British Army, who sponsor the Lead skills builder, we’ve combined our love for cooking and helping girls to be their best, to come up with our own recipes for great leadership.

These can be adjusted depending on your taste and needs, so feel free to change the ratios to cook up your perfect leadership recipe. And as with everything else, they’re always best served with a pinch of salt.


  • 2 cups of working as a team. Working as a team will teach girls how to listen to their leaders and to one another to work as a unit, allowing them to express their ideas respectfully and confidently. When Corporal Pardeep, a chef from the British Army, sees herself with delivery mix ups or missing ingredients, which is not very often, she says, 'I get my team together to come up with ideas as a group to make a tasty meal with the ingredients that we have. Teamwork!'
  • 3 tbsp of self-awareness. We believe it’s important that girls learn who they are and what they care about to lead others. Get girls learning about themselves with the All about you activity in Lead skills builder Stage 1.
  • 150ml of kindness and empathy at equal measures. Knowing what they stand for should lead girls to care for, understand and support others.
  • A sprinkle of listening to others. Kindness and empathy always go well with listening to others. Great leaders take the time to listen and understand those around them. Girls can put these skills into practice by taking part in the Untanglers activity in Lead skills builder Stage 1.


  • 1 ½ cups of solving problems. Girls will come across different problems daily, which’ll give them the opportunity to see and do things differently. Instead of giving up or getting frustrated when they encounter a challenge, problem-solving skills will help them manage their emotions, think creatively, and persist until they find a solution. Test your girls’ problem-solving skills with the Rope race challenge in Lead skills builder Stage 2.
  • 1tsp of making decisions. Making decisions can be a difficult task, and it’s also a key part of the problem-solving process. Get girls practising their skills and making good decisions with the Design time activity in Lead skills builder Stage 2.
  • 100ml of sharing the work. For many of us it can be difficult to say ‘no’ to helping others and we may end up taking on too much. Get girls sharing responsibilities and bringing the best out of their teams with Mission managed, which you can find in Lead skills builder Stage 3.
  • A dusting of a positive mindset; this always helps to get things done. It can help girls when they see themselves in challenging situations, and with boosting team morale.


  • 250g of negotiating skills. Negotiation involves abilities like listening to others, showing empathy, and compromising – 'ingredients' that we’ve seen and developed in the earlier stages of guiding. Girls will have put this skill to practice when deciding what game to play with their units. The Price up activity in Lead skills builder Stage 3 will help them brush up on their negotiating skills.
  • 2 tbsp of learning to strategise. Leadership isn’t always plain sailing. Girls will often face unexpected challenges. Being able to come up with a plan, or strategy, can help to smooth out challenges and is an important part of being a good leader. Get girls to practise changing a plan under pressure to lead their teams to victory with the Rule changer activity in Lead skills builder Stage 4.
  • 150ml of prioritising. A good leader knows how to prioritise. This means they plan their time and decide which tasks they should do first to make sure they meet their aims and deadlines. Pick your battles in Lead skills builder Stage 5 will get girls managing lots of tasks at once and practising the art of prioritising.
  • A pinch of courage. Courage isn’t about being unafraid or reckless, it’s about pushing through fear, anxiety, and self-doubt to do the things that girls may think are hard, risky, or frightening. It’s not always about being the first to do an adventurous activity, but it’s about taking that step to try something new, being kind to the new girl in their unit or speaking up for what they believe in.


  • 2 cups of knowing yourself. Leaders have different styles and ways of leading groups; they may use a few styles depending on what they’re doing and what they’re hoping to achieve. Great leaders know which style to use and when, depending on what they’re doing or the people they’re leading. The Leader style guide activity in Lead skills builder Stage 5 will help girls gain a better understanding of leadership styles and which ones they prefer.
  • 2 tbsp of consideration. Like with leadership styles, people learn and work in different ways. Leading a group can be tricky if everyone has different learning styles. Great leaders will consider everyone’s learning needs and plan their sessions for a group of mixed learners. The Plan it activity in Lead skills builder Stage 6 will have girls considering different learning styles to put their own session plan together ready to lead a workshop.
  • 150ml of planning and organisational skills. When planning in advance, chef Pardeep recommends girls to write everything down clearly and share it with their team to see if they have any ideas to improve the plan.
    'Teams like to be asked their opinion. Don’t be afraid to change your plan after you have made it, if the situation changes – just be sure to communicate the changes to everyone who needs to know.'
    Being a good leader involves building the confidence of people around you. Get your girls celebrating those around them and putting their planning and organisational skills to the test with the Let’s celebrate! activity in Lead skills builder Stage 5.
  • A dash of confidence. This doesn’t necessarily mean being outgoing – it means getting girls to believe in themselves, their abilities and ideas and understanding and accepting themselves for who they are. There are a number of tricks to help build confidence.

Leadership is about learning to lead yourself, as well as leading others. The Lead skills builder focuses on leadership, not on how to become a unit leader. Girls taking part in it will gain the knowledge, skills and confidence required to become effective leaders. They’ll develop skills in leading a team, creating a vision, compromising, and negotiating. Girls should be encouraged to complete the activities to understand what type of leader they are personally.

Want to know more? Check out the Lead skills builder and find the activities in the Girlguiding shop.