How Mothers Shape Leaders
Happy Mothers Day to the mothers reading my blog!
Everyone has a story about how a mother, or mothers, shape our lives. My life was shaped by a collection of mothers acting in very different ways. My biological mother left me when I was three years old and was absent the majority of my adolescence. By the grace of God I was left with my paternal grandmother and my aunt. When I was 16 years old my grandmother’s mental faculties began to fade, and I had to work two jobs (shout out to Dietsch Brothers and JC Penney) to help make ends meet. From each mother experience I learned much, and each relationship shaped my leadership strategy.
From my birth mother I learned that people will disappoint you, but you cannot take it personally, though it took me 30+ years for that ah ha to come. You see, she had her reasons for leaving, some valid and some selfish, but the one thing that she would never do is take any accountability. When you lead people, at home or at work, accountability is essential. My boys are so precious to me. Even though they are 5 and 3, when I make a mistake, get overly frustrated with them, etc., I get down at eye level, look them in the eye, and own my mistake. At work I try to do the same thing. If I make a mistake or make a questionable move, I own it. On my desktop is a quote by Michelle Obama that speaks of always going high regardless.
As a leader we must be conscious that mistakes can compound. When you fail to take accountability for your decisions and actions, you create a festering problem that won’t go away. When you don’t take accountability, you negatively impact your relationships.
My Grandma and Aunt taught me so many things in life that shaped me as a leader. My Grandma was 60 years old when she became my primary care giver. We lived on Social Security which equated to $20,000 per year. One Thursday a month my grandma would take me to Rax (shout out if you remember Rax) or Wendy’s, and we would sit and talk. It was the gift of one on one time that she gave me. I repeat this monthly with my boys… a quiet table at Wendy’s to talk about whatever they want (usually super heroes). There are still many other nights playing Legos, trains, and ball… but the Wendy’s time is precious.
I could write 100 blogs about my grandma and aunt, but the above less of sacrifice and quality time transcend time. I have taken this lesson to the office. The most important thing I can give to my team is my time. As of now I manage 122 people. I have had, or have scheduled, one on ones with each and I do so annually. The conversation is never about production or quality but about them. You quickly learn the passions of your people and their hopes and dreams. I part with them by looking them deep in the eye and saying, “I am here for YOU. You give me your effort and integrity… I will equip you with everything I have”. I say it differently to each, but I mean it with every fiber of my being.
Now my wife… where to begin…. Most people would say marriage is tough and gets harder when children come. I can say that after 7 years of marriage that it hasn’t been tough at all… maybe it’s luck, but I call it partnership. Never have I seen a mom execute better than Emily. She is patient and kind and has an endless toleration for things (except cleaning and then, quite frankly, she is a nuisance) 🤗 We have two wonderful boys together and two beautiful children in Heaven. If it were not for Emily, I wouldn’t be anything today. I attribute my success as a leader to the partnership we developed at home.
What have I learned from marriage that I apply to work? You cannot master marriage, just like you can not master leadership. To think you will be successful just because you have done something the same way for 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, or 30 years… is treading dangerously close to arrogance. What I have learned from Emily’s motherly skills is to work hard at being patient with the maturation of my team team, as she is with the maturation of our boys. You have to let individuals operate within a safe space, to figure out who they are, and to make decisions. As we try to raise honorable young men at home, so to must we leaders raise our team, regardless of age or experience, to achieve their potential.
This blog would also fall short if I didn’t mention two other exceptional women in my life, my step mother Robbin and mother in law Barbara Edwards. Robbin was thrown into a dysfunctional family back in the 1980s and persevered through thirty years of interesting, to say the least. She stayed the course and is a wonderful grandma today. Barbara raised three amazing children, has been a source of stability, and is also a wonderful grandmother.
So to tie this blog up with a nice little bow, I want to recap a few of the leadership lessons learned through the moms in my life.
1) The intent wasn’t to throw shade at my birth mom, though reading back through the blog looks like it. Had she not been the mom she was, I wouldn’t have the wonderful life I have. I’m not bitter or upset, I’ve accepted that some things happen for reasons we don’t understand. You must walk through life, including work, with your eyes up including when someone stares you down for accountability.
2) My grandma and aunt showed me that you have to put your self aside when you life calls you to extend your duty. Never underestimate the power of your time when given to your team… especially at an individual level if you can.
3) From my wife I have learned the gift of patience and partnership. No individual person has ever been successful on their own…. so look for those key partnerships, make sure they are healthy, and have the patience to let them mature together.
Many blessings God to you all!