Mothers And Leadership
We encounter many leaders in our lives as we forge our own leadership philosophies. Hopefully, we integrate the best lessons from these leaders so we can grow into exemplary leaders ourselves.
For many of us, the very first leaders from whom we learn are our mothers. On this Mother’s Day, what better leaders to reflect upon than our moms!
Mothers tie things together for many families. They often serve as the anchor and the guide. I grew up in a family with two boys. My brother Steve was three years younger than me.
Like many siblings, we fought a lot. My brother was high-strung, as was my father Joe. Consequently, there was considerable verbal conflict in our home. My mom Anita taught me the value of compromise and the importance of conflict resolution.
No matter what was happening in our home, our neighborhood or the world, my mom was able to maintain a positive attitude. I never heard her utter a negative word about anyone. She always managed to look on the bright side of things. Even later in life, Liz’s and my friends frequently commented on my mom’s sunny outlook on life. She demonstrated for me the power of a positive attitude.
Throughout our childhood, my mom ( and dad) showed me the importance of community involvement. Mom held leadership positions in the PTA and in our local synagogue for many years. She taught me the importance of getting involved in community and that leadership does not solely relate to positions we hold at work.
My father died suddenly when I was 19, a sophomore in college. It was a shock for all of us. With no warning, my mom was forced to carve out a new life for herself, both financially and emotionally. She went through the grieving process and proceeded to start afresh, with determination and resolve, eventually marrying again and moving to a different state and making new friends. Mom showed me the importance of resilience and of courage.
As I and my wife have also raised two boys, we have strived to pass on meaningful leadership lessons to our sons. In preparation for this newsletter post, I asked my sons Jared and Ben to share the leadership lessons they have gathered from Liz.
Jared said Liz showed us Robert Greenleaf’s concept of “servant-leadership:” “It was all about her ‘team’, aka the three of us. Her goal every day was to help give us the tools to succeed no matter what we were doing.
She also showed us the importance of self-care; while she prioritized us, she also always prioritized making sure she was her best self – we know a leader cannot be their most effective unless they are ‘sharpening their saw’ first. She played tennis with friends, went to the gym to take care of her personal health, and always filled up her bucket so she could help fill up our buckets too.”
Ben offered these leadership thoughts: “Like good leaders, mom showed relentless encouragement. She was always our biggest cheerleader, whether at sports, in school, or in life. Having that constant encouragement from a leader can motivate people, since they feel that someone else is invested in them and their success.”
Ben added, “Mom provided constructive discipline. I may have felt that some of the disciplinary practices were unfair at the time, but, looking back, mom always provided the opportunity to learn from mistakes and grow as a person. As a leader, it’s important not simply to criticize, scold or discipline people for the sake of proving a point. Instead, use the opportunity to help your people learn and grow.”
As we celebrate all the wonderful mother-leaders in our lives, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Sylvia Stoff, my mother-in-law, who passed away on February 25 one month after her 99th birthday.
Sylvia exemplified so many leadership attributes throughout her long life – an indomitable spirit, a willingness to do the hard work to succeed in what used to be a “man’s world,” a keen understanding of people and what made them tick, a sincere interest in others and their personal lives, a sharp sense of humor and a love of life.
Mom, we miss you!
To all you mothers and grandmothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day!!!