What I Learned About Leadership From My Mom

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Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. I won’t tell you which one it is, but like all the rest of them, it is worth celebrating. As I’ve been thinking about Mom’s upcoming birthday, I’ve been reflecting on what she’s taught me – it’s a long list. To celebrate her birthday, I’ve identified some of the most important leadership lessons I have learned from her.

It is my hope that this list not only celebrates her and give you a bit of insight into me; but far more important to you, I hope this article does two other things:
     • Challenges you to think about these lessons for yourself – and which one(s) might help you in your leadership growth.
     • Challenges you to ask the same question – “what did I learn about leadership from…” – about an important person in your life.

With my purpose and challenges to you set, let’s get on with the lessons.

Great leaders have a servant heart. My mom has a servant heart. This is true as a mother, but it true for the rest of her life too. In fact, when you read the rest of the lessons that will become abundantly clear, because her servant mentality is why so many of the other lessons exist. Mom serves in her community, both locally and globally, in her church and in many other ways. Leaders serve others, and it is far easier to do that for the right reasons when you have a servant’s heart.

Great leaders use their talents for the benefit of others. My mom is a talented seamstress, and has made hundreds of dresses out of pillowcases to be sent to girls in other countries. She scours yard sales, garage sales, and estate sales for pillowcases for this ongoing project. (If you have pillowcases you want to donate for the cause, let me know!) She has made quilts for infants born at the local hospital. She is a talented at other crafts too – she uses those skills to knit hats for newborns and in many other ways too. As leaders, we all have different talents. It is our obligation to bring our talents to our leadership role, even as we develop other skills.

Great leaders know the power of example. My mom isn’t a public speaker, she rarely will lecture (OK, maybe I got a few lectures or was scolded, but…). Mom prefers to lead by her example. She will show you how to do something. She will teach you anything she knows. She encourages growth, and wise choices through her actions. The best leaders know that words alone will never be enough to influence and persuade others – because people are watching our feet more than our lips.

Great leaders are readers. My mom raised two children who love to read. She attributes that in part (and research proves her right), to reading to us from the time we were infants. Now she sets an impressive annual goal for the number of books she will read, and typically surpasses that goal. While we read different types of things, I learned of the power of reading from my mother. Every great leader I know or have studied, was a learner and a reader.

Great leaders can lead from behind. My mom never needed to be or wanted to be the project leader, the committee chair, or in the spotlight. She has served on many committees, held many offices, but not as President or Chair. She, like all humans, likes to be acknowledged, and likes to know her efforts made a difference, but the title didn’t (and doesn’t) matter to her. You can lead, regardless of your title or position. Great leaders lead regardless of their position.

Great leaders bake awesome pies. OK, maybe that isn’t a leadership lesson, but most everyone I know who has tasted her pie, says hers are among the best they’ve ever eaten.

My mother has played a significant part in whatever I am, and whatever I will still become. I can’t thank her enough for her example, her wisdom and her love.

Happy Birthday Mom, I love you.

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