Executive Leadership Lessons to Learn from Cajuns

Executive Leadership Lessons to Learn from Cajuns 150 150 Jennifer Ledet

What in the world could a senior-level executive leader learn from the down-home bayou-living Cajun people of South Louisiana?

Well, we have certainly endured our share of tough times. We’ve gone through numerous hurricanes, a damaging oil spill, and economic downturns, but now we’re back – better than ever.

First, let us start with a review of an old Cajun adage that is often quoted but maybe less often understood.

Lache Pas La Patate! (Don’t Drop the Potato!)

A modern-day translation might read something like, “Hang in there!” or “Finish strong!”

Successful leaders are resilient and enduring, like the spirit of the Cajun people. In order to be more like the Cajuns,

Apply these lessons to your leadership:


Commitment. Through the bad and the good, your team needs a leader who won’t quit, give up, or throw in the towel. Obviously. But your team also needs a leader who won’t waver, doubt, or question your mission and purpose. Are you having second thoughts, or are you holding firm to your mission?

Integrity. Integrity and trust are the foundation of great leadership. If your employees feel that they can’t trust you in one area, then they can’t – and won’t – trust you at all. Are you doing what you say you’ll do and fulfilling your commitments?

Values. Cajuns are known for their strong values regarding community and family. During difficult times everyone comes together and helps each other out. In the storms of adversity in your business, organization, or industry, hold firmly to the values and beliefs that got you where you are. Refuse to compromise your values. Remember, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Joie de vivre. (Love of life). Cajuns and the residents of New Orleans need no excuse for a party, and it’s this spirit of fun and lightheartedness that often helps us get through the tough times with our sanity intact. Are you creating an enjoyable work environment of camaraderie and celebration or one of serious melancholy and misery? Remember, you set the tone for your work environment – for better or worse.

Courage. Someone has got to make the tough decisions. Facing the inconvenient, uncomfortable, and unpopular decisions are why they pay you the big bucks! Leadership is not a popularity contest. Do you bury your head in the sand or grab the bull by the horns? And don’t forget, by making no decision, you are, in effect, making a decision.

Hope. Like the Cajuns, effective leaders are dealers in hope. Your outlook has a tremendous impact on those around you. People figure that if you’re spouting gloom and doom, or if you’re projecting optimism about the future, you must be right because you’re in the know. What kind of outlook are you presenting?

As you meet with your team members, as you build and strengthen your business relationships, as you tackle new business challenges, try taking a page from the Cajun’s playbook.

Comment here! What will you:

  • start doing,
  • stop doing, or
  • continue doing or do differently

to be more like the Cajuns? Chime in to share your leadership tips.

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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication.  In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.


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