Mother’s Day celebrated moms across the United States on Sunday, May 14, and as the country took a moment to step back and celebrate our mothers, I was struck by what I observed. We skipped celebrating accomplishments and accolades, but rather, we shared stories about the impact of how our mothers have shaped our lives.
Facebook exploded with post after post; family pictures thanking mothers for always being there and for “making us who we are today” – the realization that mothers are probably the first (and some will argue the best) examples of leadership that we experience in our lives.
Mothers have our back: There is undeniable trust between a mother and her child. This trust is built upon a foundation of the undisputable knowledge that children know that their mom has their back, no matter what, with no questions asked. Mothers watch out for us and protect us. This protection from a mother provides confidence so we develop freely, knowing we have someone to turn to and that someone is looking out for our best interests.
Leaders need to take note - the best leaders understand the imperative that they must build trust. They not only have an expectation, but also a responsibility to earn that trust by protecting their people. Leaders must be there to catch you when you fall, just like mothers do.
Mothers nurture our development: Motherhood is characterized by that special instinct to nurture. Mothers start with children that are inexperienced and reliant and raise them into independent and successful adults. They teach life skills like how to tie shoes and that you should say “please” when asking for something, but it goes beyond that. Mothers nurture your value system and develop your character. They teach you right from wrong and what is important in life, and they raise you not just to have life skills, but rather with the ultimate goal of raising you to become a “good person.”
Mothers are interested in your character development more than anything else. What sets leaders apart from managers is that managers focus on developing skills to accomplish tasks, but leaders foster the intangibles in people. They realize that skills are just a small part of the development process and that developing core values, behavioral styles, and emotional intelligence are the differentiators that allow employees to grow into their full potential. Leaders focus on nurturing growth and character, just like mothers do.
Mothers don’t take the credit: One of the overriding characteristics when thinking about a mother is selflessness. Mothers care deeply and cheer loudly. There is pride and joy when their children succeed, but although they have everything to do with your successes, they stand on the sidelines and never ask for credit. They simply care more about you than they do themselves, and this makes all the difference.
Leadership should be no different. Fundamentally, leaders need to understand that it is not about them, but rather it is about their people. They need to do everything to help their people succeed and be overly generous with giving credit to others. Leaders focus on the success of the team over themselves, just like mothers do.
Mother Day serves as a reminder that moms hold a special place in the world. They are unsung heroes that teach us lessons of life and leadership every day. Cheers to the mothers out there, who humbly teach and coach us every day, and show us the most admirable way to lead, is to lead by example.