Maternal Leadership

From May 1, 2018 African American Point of View

Maternal Leadership

“I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t. Hey, it made me a better leader: you have to take a lot of people’s needs into account; you have to look down the road. Trying to negotiate getting a couple of kids to watch the same TV show requires serious diplomacy.”- Dee Dee Myers

This month we will be celebrating the mothers in our lives. Our parents are often the first people we learn leadership from—both good and bad. Sometimes we don’t recognize the important leadership skills of mothers that are practiced in the workplace and community.


By nature, I am not a patient person. I am often on to the next thing before finishing the last thing or even a sentence. This can create unreasonable expectations of staff. It can also mean missing others’ ideas and mistakes. Being a parent has taught me patience. It sometimes amazes me how long it can take my daughter to put on her socks or get to the point in a story. If I try to rush her, she usually has to start all over. By being patient, I am able to slow down and enjoy the moment. Parenting is about allowing ourselves to be in the moment so that we don’t miss it. My daughter probably won’t be singing exuberantly about the dog next year or next month. The same is true in leadership. Leaders who have the discipline of patience are able to see what’s in front of them and incorporate the ideas of others.


In our house, whenever something bad happens or someone gets hurt it is always the others’ fault. It is so instinctual to blame others and not own our own outcomes. Brené Brown is a social scientist who has found that “blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain.” She believes that accountability is a vulnerable process that takes courage and time. We are vulnerable when we admit fault or empathize with someone that we may have hurt. Shifting away from blame takes time, listening and empathy. I am working on taking blame out of my vocabulary at home and owning my mistakes to model that behavior for my girls. I want to show them that mistakes aren’t always someone’s fault. Similarly, as a leader I hope to be strong enough to be vulnerable enough to admit my mistakes or be empathetic enough to notice when I have wrongly blamed or hurt someone. Admitting fault is never easy, especially when moms are trying to be Superwoman at home and work.

When you picture a leader, do you picture a mom? Why or why not? We have been socialized to picture coaches, political leaders, and businessmen. My mom taught me leadership lessons like showing up and getting involved if you care about something. That is a value that I carry with me today. My kids are making me a better leader every day by teaching me to be patient and own my mistakes. This Mother’s Day let’s hear it for the maternal leaders in our lives.