After twenty-five years working on the motherhood shift and even more years in my professional leadership roles, in honor of Mother’s Day celebrated in the USA, here is an argument as to why you should follow the lead of any virtuoso mother (or father, however, I’ll reflect on fatherhood in June).
Effective leadership includes so much more than the oft-cited behaviors, such as providing respectful and objective feedback, being honest, or having a clear vision. It includes what are considered characteristically positive maternal behaviors, too. Here are six practices to keep in mind on how to start—and continue—your leadership journey– like a mother with excellent parenting skills.
- It’s Not Just About You. Anymore.
For those of us who came to parenthood late in life, the fast and furious adjustment to realizing that we are no longer the center of our own universe can be startling. Do I need new shoes or does my child? Do I need to save for something luxurious or for my child’s college education?
Of course, as adults, and even children, we consider others. But when you’re a parent or a leader, well…your concern must turn outward to those in your charge.
When I was climbing the organizational ladder, my focus was on contributing as much as I could and to getting ahead as fast as I could. When I took on a leadership role, I strongly supported the needs of my team. And still do.
- Be in step.
Years ago, when my four-year old daughter was sad because of a broken playdate, I recognized why she was feeling that way and responded accordingly. That’s an example of being attuned, which is interpersonal alignment, being “in step” with someone’s feelings. Being aware of the people on your team, of what they’re thinking and feeling (as far as the workplace is concerned) means you’re staying interpersonally attuned, which facilitates communication, collaboration, and enhances people’s confidence in you. Being unaware is bad parenting and leadership. Of course, you must set boundaries however staying mindful of others’ circumstances, feelings and points of view makes for better stewardship.
- Choose the ethical route.
At times it’s hard to take the high road. But by focusing on supporting employees’ on-the-job success and by meeting their needs, you underpin people’s job satisfaction. What’s more– taking the ethical route will never, ever fail you or society.
- Avoid micromanaging.
It’s part of your job as a parent or leader, to help others work independently. If you must intervene, you can ask, “In what ways do you need support? In what ways do you prefer handling things independently?” When you interfere, forcing micromanagement on others, it doesn’t allow people’s strengths or ideas to surface. If you zig and one of your employees zags but accomplishes the goal leading to a worthwhile outcome –perhaps zagging is a valuable method to adopt.
Besides, I’ve never met anyone who likes to be micromanaged. It’s not a good way to make allies.
- Clearly communicate expectations.
Whether with in the classroom or leading a team, I focus on clearly communicating my expectations for meeting goals and objectives. It helps to make a list of desired outcomes and takeaways before you meet with people.
Recently, a reporter asked me to relate one lesson I learned from my mother. When I responded, not only did I realize just how many valuable lessons I had learned but that my mother’s parenting greatly contributed to my career success. While recounting all the times that my mother took me along on protest marches to advocate for social justice, here’s the lesson I relayed,
Whether mother or leader, treat people fairly.
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The World’s Richest Self-Made Women, 2023.
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