When we look for examples of great leaders we generally look amongst the categories of sport stars, politicians, businesspersons or perhaps war heroes and that is perfectly fine. One of the reasons we do that is because finding examples from these genres is relatively easy since the performance of these leaders stand out and their success is obvious. So we tend to idolize the virtues and traits of these leaders. However, while doing so, we often fail to recognize perhaps the greatest leadership role model of all. Someone who is initiated into the role through labor and continues to labor through the role. To me the greatest leadership role model is a mother.
So, here are some important and valuable leadership lessons that we can learn from a mother:
1. Sacrifice: A mother epitomizes the quality of sacrifice. You can read up the definition of sacrifice in a dictionary or just watch a mother go about her role every day. She constantly almost subconsciously puts her children and family ahead of her. To her, personal success is when her children and family do well. Sacrifice is the essence of authentic leadership. Selfishness is the opposite of sacrifice. You may have title holders who are selfish but you will always find this same genuine spirit of sacrifice in authentic leaders.
2. Service: A mother is the manifestation of service. It is her joy to serve. She isn’t looking for compensation or reward nor for applause or appreciation but for an opportunity to serve. An opportunity to serve is what provides her immense satisfaction and meaning. The heart of service is what drives an authentic leader. Leaders who make a difference realize that their responsibility lies in serving others while an individual driven by a title believes they are entitled to be served by others.
3. Love: Scripture uses the love of a mother as an analogy to articulate the love of God towards us. To me, this is the highest divine compliment for the love of a mother. It is a love that doesn’t give up, that expects nothing in return, expects the best and most importantly forgives and forgets. The word “Love” makes many uncomfortable at the workplace. Ironically, there is growing research-based evidence to prove the significance of the impact of it. Love in the context of work means respect, honor, to be cared for, valued and appreciated. Authentic leaders aren’t obsessed by self-love instead they cause those they lead to feel loved and cared for. This is largely what psychological safety is all about.
4. Discipline: I lost my mother tragically when I was nine years old. In those nine years, I learnt about a paradox that involved love and disciple. It was a pleasure to receive the love and affection which my mother showered on me but I resented the discipline when it came my way. But ironically, authentic love is incomplete without the element of tough love. At the heart of love is the desire for the very best in the person to whom it is expressed. Another word for discipline is tough love . Discipline is an integral aspect of a Mother’s leadership armory. Authentic leaders don’t hold back expressing tough love which is discipline. The intent and motive of discipline is the best interest of the one being disciplined.
5. Support: My greatest supporter growing up — be it in sport or academics — was my mom. She believed in me even when I actually didn’t believe in myself. Her belief was infectious and was a catalyst for my confidence levels. I’m certain this is not just my experience but one which many can relate to. Mothers support, inspire and are confidence boosters. I see a commonality of this trait in authentic leaders. They believe, support and rally around their team members.
There are many other traits of mother which serve as a manual of must-have leadership traits. But I believe the above five are sufficient proof that if you are looking for leadership role models, you don’t have to look to far — just look at a mother.