Lead Like Mom

My sister, my mom, and me.

My sister, my mom, and me.

I have the good fortune of spending this weekend in the company of three terrific moms: my wife, my mother-in-law, and of course, my mom. It got me thinking about all that we learn from them along the way about leadership. After all, our moms are the first – and best – leaders we follow. So in honor of Mother’s Day, here are 5 ways we can all lead like mom, featuring popular mom-isms we all heard growing up.

“A mother’s love is unconditional.” Our moms always see the best in us. They see our faults too, make no mistake, but they’ll be the first to give voice to the good things. In conversation they highlight what makes us so special. Be able to see and articulate what each of your people bring to the table. Don’t let challenging employees become defined by their challenging behavior. Everybody has something to offer.

“Rules are rules.” See the good in your challenging folks but enforce the boundaries where necessary. There are some things that, as a leader, you simply can’t compromise on. What is it for you? Communicate that to your team, as well as the penalties for violation. People can’t follow the rules until they know exactly what they are.

“As long as you did your best.” Win, lose, or draw we can always count on mom to praise our effort, regardless of the outcome. It should come as no surprise that this has proven to be an effective coaching and development strategy as well. In our results-driven world we often forget to center our praise on effort and strategy instead of just the outcome. Nobody is perfect every time so focus on progress, not perfection, with your people.

“Don’t make me pull this car over!” Mom insisted that you get along with your siblings. You didn’t always have to like each other, but you did have to respect each other. Great leaders create the same kind of environment at work. Few teams operate in eternal harmony. Set, communicate, and enforce expectations for how conflict will be handled when it rears its ugly head. And don’t be afraid to come to a screeching halt to address issues when necessary.

“’I don’t know’ is not an answer.” Mom questioned our actions. She wanted us to think through what we did before doing it. When we made poor choices she explored our flawed thought process with us. Great leaders do the same. It’s called coaching and it compels our employees to actively engage in problem solving and not just rely on us for the answer. When employees ask you how to handle something ask “What options do you see?” Force a shift from waiting for a solution to pursuing one. See also: “Look it up.”

I’m sure I could spend hours translating many popular mom-isms into leadership advice.  That’s because moms care and nurture. It’s because they are invested in our success and know that support, compassion, and, when needed, honesty are key to our success. The same can be said for great leaders. So the next time you’re evaluating your leadership style, consider taking a page from mom’s book.

Now eat your vegetables.

Now it’s your turn. What mom-isms did you hear growing up? What leadership traits did you learn from mom? Share in the comments box below. Don’t make me come over there!


One thought on “Lead Like Mom

  1. One of the best things my Mom taught me was to “Think before you speak” no matter how aggravating a situation is always think it through you don’t ever want to say something you will regret later. I find myself telling my kids the same thing because it works! Challenging employees can sometimes get you to the point of exhaustion but there is always a solution if you think it through. That’s a Mom-ism that works in every aspect of life.

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