The Sandwich: The Ultimate Expression of Community Leadership?

by | Apr 7, 2021 | Community Engagement | 0 comments

Communities and sandwiches. I love them both. I love seeing them being built. Maybe because to my mind, they’re closely related. And to my mind, a sandwich is a perfect metaphor for community leadership.

Bite into this idea about community leadership.

Think about what goes into a great sandwich. Bread to build on. Fresh ingredients that balance tastes and textures perfectly. And a distinctive wallop of flavor—a secret sauce or seasoning—that makes everybody want one.

Build your community like a sandwich. Here’s the recipe…

As a leader, your place is to provide that space and conditions—build the sandwich—that bring out the best in each individual. To create a place where everyone wants to be, where everyone has a role, and where today and tomorrow are better because everybody is pulling together.

  • Bread—where it all starts. The organization, the neighborhood, the cause—the foundational reason for the community to exist. The structure of the community, which you discover through community intelligence gathering.
  • Meat/Main Filling. The key leaders and decision-makers in the community. The core focus of strategy and action.
  • Toppings. Like lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and onions, these are the folks that are always in reach and ready to pitch in. The community wouldn’t be where it is without them. They have opinions. They’re ready to volunteer. And they’re invested in the outcomes.
  • Condiments. I call these folks the silent supporters. They’re present, but often overlooked and sometimes unengaged. When they raise their voices—like adding that secret, housemade seasoning spread—the community shines brighter.
  • Sides. Like pickles, chips, and that housemade cookie—extra for sure, but they add that certain something—a unique talent, a connection—that can extend the reach and value of the community and help amplify its stature and influence.

… and here are the skills you need.

As a community leader you’re the person behind the deli counter who’s assembling all the ingredients in the “just-right” proportions. It’s just that you need a different set of skills to produce a delicious result:


  • Ask yourself: “Who am I in the eyes of those I seek to lead and serve? How do they perceive—and talk about—the things I do and say?”

Community Awareness & Empathy (Respect)

  • Ask yourself: “Who am I trying to serve and why?” Never assume you know what people want or need—always ask them.
  • Oh, remember the Platinum Rule: don’t treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they want to be treated.

Apply the art of sandwich-making to community leadership.Intentionality

  • Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this? What am I really trying to accomplish, and for whom?”

Hunger to Serve (Drive)

  • Ask yourself: “What is my motivation, truly, to do this work? To be a leader?” Make it your mission to find the authentic place where this all comes from.


  • Ask yourself: “What am I willing to do for this community?” Or more critically, what are you not willing to do? The second answer will reveal your level of true commitment in the face of uncertainty and chaos as well as the high times of livin’ large.

Make the connection. Re-discover your communities. Join us for Los Angeles Sandwich Week May 24-31, 2021

I’ve said it before: I believe in my heart that food and community are inseparably linked.

Now, as we approach the waning side of the pandemic, it’s time to rediscover your community. And of course, food is the ideal vehicle (even if you’re taking public transport!).

Join in for the first-ever Los Angeles Sandwich Week, happening May 24-31. Support Small Business Month, explore the city as it reopens, and make new connections as you eat the best sandwiches in L.A. For every participating sandwich purchased, our sponsor Wells Fargo will donate $1 to nonprofits combating food insecurity in L.A. County. From deli counters to food trucks, we’ll see you out there!

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Los Angeles Sandwich week is coming this May!