On Mother’s Day, it is absolutely appropriate to highlight a few of the many characteristics that mothers emulate as leaders. George Washington, father of our country, said it best: “All I am I owe to my mother.” The good news is we all have mothers so the opportunity to learn from our mothers starts from day one. Who would argue with the notion that mothers are leaders? Karen Hurt in her May 2014 blog “Mothers are Amazing Leaders” suggests several traits all mothers possess, traits all leaders can adopt. Here are three that stand out as emblematic.
First, moms take the long view. Is that that not the truth? Raising kids, it is rare that a mom would say, “That was a perfect day of parenting execution.” Words are exchanged, actions taken but rarely does everything go as planned mom patch picturewhen dealing with toddlers and, later, certainly with teenagers. Yet, moms know – like leader’s should know – results are measured over months, years and decades. Life and an organization’s health cannot be evaluated day to day. Be patient. Leaders should hope to rack up more positives than negatives but don’t get stuck on short term failures. As I write this, I am listening to the chants of so many proud moms as their son or daughter crosses the stage at Gonzaga’s commencement. I am certain there were times that these moms would not have thought their child would be graduating magna cum laude, but the day finally came. Accomplishment comes for those who take the long view like moms.
Moms juggle and so do leaders. Juggling multiple tasks is a way of life for moms. Work, cooking, laundry and throw in diapers….moms do it all. Fathers juggle too but moms are experts at prioritizing from the first days. Karen Hurt remarks it is a “survival skill.” Moms perfect the juggling from the first days. Leaders would be wise to do the same. Dr. Robert Joss, Dean Emeritus of Stanford’s Business Department makes an exceptional point on leading and managing. Leading is like the long game in golf. Leaders need to know how to drive the ball of their organization down the green. Managing focuses on the details and is like the putting game. But good leaders like good moms need to juggle both leadership tasks and management tasks. They need to show the way forward for their children while at the same time managing the day to day details of life. Good golfers win championships by being able to do well in the long game as well as on the putting green. By necessity, moms learn to juggle both. Good leaders likewise need to juggle both leadership and management tasks seamlessly. That is key to leading well in any pursuit – juggle well without letting the balls hit the floor.
Finally, moms know the most important leadership lesson of all is learning to influence. Moms realize this early on because the words “I told you so” have limited duration. Kids who understand why they are doing what they need to do will do the right thing. The US military is easily the best in the world, but the key to its success is military leaders of all ranks “influence” their followers rather than forcing followers as was the case in the early days of the military. Influence is a synonym for leadership and moms know how to influence best – they epitomize trust which allows leadership to blossom. Good leaders lead their organization to a better place by influencing and persuading followers. Mothers realize coercion stops being effective early on…it is a good rule for all to remember.
It is a good to intentionally celebrate our mothers once a year. Over a lifetime, they give so much in love, compassion and patience, and they all teach us leadership by their actions. This blog could enumerate countless other mother leadership characteristics but perspective, juggling and influence rise to the top of quick lessons every mom learns. A final point to remember is moms by their actions live a life of servant leadership. Robert Greenleaf reminds us: “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” Mothers serve their children for a lifetime. Mothers are leaders.
Education is the mother of leadership. ~ Wendell Willkie