Are you a Lagniappe Leader? (hint: You don’t have to be French or Cajun)

Words are funny things.  I love words and really enjoy learning new ones or finding new ways to use ones I have known from other contexts.  Lagniappe (Lan-yap) is a unique, maybe even eclectic, word that I first came to notice about 16 years ago when I took the family to Destin, FL for a few days after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  While we were driving in Destin I noticed the restaurant Louisiana Lagniappe.

We have since eaten at LL a few times, but when I first drove by I had no idea what a lagniappe was or is.  Not being one to be in the dark I looked up the definition for the word lagniappe and found the following:

A small gift presented by a storeowner to a customer with the customer’s purchase.

2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. Also called regionally boot2. See Regional Note at beignet.

[Louisiana French, from American Spanish la ñapa, the gift : la, the (from Latin illa, feminine of ille, that, the; see al-1 in Indo-European roots) + ñapa (variant of yapa, gift, from Quechua, from yapay, to give more).]

Regional Note: Lagniappe derives from New World Spanish la ñapa, “the gift,” and ultimately from Quechua yapay, “to give more.” The word came into the rich Creole dialect mixture of New Orleans and there acquired a French spelling. It is still used in the Gulf states, especially southern Louisiana, to denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase. By extension, it may mean “an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.”

The definitions above can be used to apply lagniappe in many different methods and it is most commonly used to describe commerce and the habit or tradition of a business to give something “extra” when a transaction is made.

I like to find ways to combine topics in new ways and the word lagniappe is one that I think fits well with leadership and leaders.  Leadership is about doing, about changing and leaders sometime, in fact, many times have to do something extra or unexpected in order to get the desired result or change from their followers.  My events of the past week and especially last weekend have also been timely in helping me to crystallize the concept of lagniappe leaders and lagniappe leadership.

Lagniappe Leadership is the act of doing something extra or unexpected in order to obtain the desired result.

Lagniappe Leaders are those who show the appropriate behaviors to make what is needed happen.  That is often consisting of that something extra or unexpected.

In my blog post of last week I talked about two gentlemen I have known who were both Lagniappe Leaders.  I had the honor to attend the funeral of one of them, Mel Hensey, last Saturday and this concept kept rolling through my mind as I heard so many tell stories of how Mel did the  unexpected or took the “extra step” in order to make a profound difference in their lives.  Mel’s avocation of facilitating and guiding groups was a great work in his life, but he also tried to find ways to integrate this love with his other loves that included planting trees, canoeing and scouting.

Many of the speakers spoke of how he would find ways to combine 2 or 3 of these at any one time.  By doing so he would doing that little extra to make a difference in the lives of all concerned.  I won’t get into the details of all of this, but he also knew very clearly what his purpose and mission were in order to use these activities to accomplish what they did.

Lagniappe leadership; doing the unexpected or the little something extra in order to get it right and get it done.  For some of us the word lagniappe might seem redundant when we think of leadership because leaders are always doing that little extra or doing the unexpected to make a difference, but the term lagniappe emphasizes this concept even more for me.

Are you a Lagniappe Leader?  If so, when did you become one?  Was there a specific situation or circumstance that caused you to step outside the normal boundaries to make the impossible, possible?

If you are in Destin, I would recommend you have a nice meal at Louisiana Lagniappe.

If you are looking to make a difference, I encourage you to use the Lagniappe concept to make a difference.

Do what it takes.  Step outside the box.

You never know how long-lasting the impact might be.