What My Mother Taught Me About Leadership

Posted in Leadership,Uncategorized by iwonderstand on May 12, 2014
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Mom and Dad in HawaiiOf course, it is Mother’s Day and my thoughts go to my Mom. Actually, my thoughts turn to her and my Dad often. Just last week I referred to some life lesson that my parents taught me. Now well into their wonderful retirement, life wasn’t always ‘all about them’. My parents sacrificed many comforts so that my brother, sister, and I could have what we needed (and often what we wanted as well!). Through it all, my parents modeled characteristics that we didn’t even know we were aspiring to. My parents taught each of us how to be leaders, preparing us for the careers and life that we  now have.

Leadership Learning #1:

Do your best. Always. Regardless of whether the job you are doing is flashy and fun, engaging, or something you want to do – work hard. Someone is depending on the work you are doing whether you think it is important or not. People deserve better than a bare minimum effort. This means that we as leaders need to have high expectations for ourselves and for our colleagues. It is not sufficient to expect others to perform at a higher level than we do ourselves, or worse yet expect others and ourselves to achieve a lower standard. Leaders need to be role models.

My Mom always worked – in an era that many of my friends had Moms that stayed at home. My mom worked for the last decades of her career taking care of senior citizens. Mom’s work was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding – she worked hard every day, even when lifting residents almost destroyed her shoulder; even when the shifts were so long that she sorted her life by ‘days on, days off’ because on her work days all she could do was work and sleep. No matter how big or how small the task in front of her, Mom did it because she knew that what she did made a difference in the comfort and quality of life for the people she cared for.

Leadership Learning #2:

Love people and let them know you love them. The world is based on relationships. Wearing your heart on your sleeve – laughing, crying, being joyful, and sharing pain is all a part of the humanity we live in. Showing your own vulnerability will help others to reach out and ask for and accept support when they need it.

My Mom was the person whose colleagues would come to for conversations, sharing, bouncing ideas off of one another. She was like a mother/counsellor/sounding board for her colleagues. She also cared so much for the senior citizens she cared for. She used to call some of the gentlemen “crusty on the outside and tender on the inside” because they had harsh exteriors that she would see right through. Mom was never fooled by the crust – she could see the heart and soul of the residents in her care and made a connection to them.

Leadership Learning #3:

You have the right to question everyone and everything around you, no matter who you are, or what position you hold. Without questioning actions, policies, or mandates, we can follow structures and people that are hurtful. If we don’t believe something is morally or intellectually right, we should not follow. History tells us that following blindly is as dangerous as leading a hurtful initiative. As leaders, we need to question in order to ensure that where we are leading is in a morally and intellectually ‘good’ direction.

My Mom and Dad encouraged me to question them, the media, and social norms. They believe that we all have the right to our belief and opinions, as long as we are not hurting others. As a result, I believe that we have the right to question when others’ beliefs and actions are imposing on our own freedoms and actions. I remember when the Colin Thatcher Trial was on the News, and I went on a rant that only a 14 year old can have around the media and society prejudging him simply based on his political position. I questioned “Who are we to judge and declare him guilty?” Needless to say, my parents listened to my ideas and questions without ever hinting that I was “just a kid”.

And so, on this Mother’s Day, I celebrate my Mom. I celebrate all that she has taught me about humanity, about learning, about leadership and about myself.