In the midst of the debate over equal pay for women, and varied opinions on the recent news that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pregnant, it is obvious the need to continue to reaffirm why mums and even women, in general, make great leaders. It is astounding to me that the potential and value of women is still questioned in many places around the world in 2018. However, that’s a larger topic to be explored another time.
Continuing on from my previous post (see here), here are a few more attributes of leadership that I believe can be enhanced in motherhood…
“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
John C Maxwell
When I gave birth to Sienna, it was also the birth of a mother; me. Parenthood isn’t something you arrive at with experience and qualifications. Even those that have worked with babies, children and young people have to navigate the intertwining complexities of loving, teaching and providing for a small human who has their own personality, will and needs.
If we are to be the best we can be, adaptability and flexibility are key as we learn to be parents to an ever-growing child in an ever-changing environment.
For example, as soon as you feel like you’ve nailed some sort of routine with your baby, their nap changes! Or just when you feel like you’ve built a positive relationship with your child, puberty hits and suddenly there’s a whole new storm to navigate.
As parents and leaders we have to be ready and able to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that we find ourselves in, otherwise, we are susceptible to becoming overwhelmed, ignorant or insignificant.
To persevere is a choice. For me giving up on my child is not an option. As a mother and a parent, I realise that the buck stops with me. No-one else is going to care for Sienna as much as Rich and I do. In spite of sleep deprivation, flu or anything else for that matter, I still get up in the middle of the night to attend to her needs. When your toddler is having a tantrum or your teenager a strop you still have to persevere in love, patience and discipline.
The perseverance built in motherhood can help re-ignite the tenacity to not give up in other areas of your life also. For me, I want to be someone that inspires Sienna and encourages her to be all that she can be, to go further than I have gone and do more than I have done. If I don’t demonstrate perseverance, how can I expect from her what I’m not willing to give myself? It’s a matter of integrity.
Leadership that lasts the distance requires perseverance. No tree springs up and bears fruit overnight. Likewise no team, business or pursuit fulfils its potential in an instant. Like a child, all these need continuous support, investment and nourishment in order to bear fruit.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” Vincent Van Gogh
It can be easy to feel like small tasks lack significance when faced with them on a day to day basis. Yet nothing of great worth ever just happened. Reaching long-term goals requires daily discipline.
Motherhood helps to reinforce or implement discipline and understand the consequences of a lack of it. For example, every day I have to wash and sterilise Sienna’s bottles, an often boring and mundane task. If they aren’t sterilised, however, there is an increased risk that bacteria will breed and have the potential to make her ill.
Consistency can be hard when it comes to disciplining a child. However, the risk of a lack of consistency in this area can have long-term negative consequences. For me, as a parent, it is important that I maintain discipline and consistency in the values that I wish to pass onto my daughter.
As a leader discipline is a key to long-term success and credibility. Integrity is built upon discipline; a consistency of good character.
There you have it, three more reasons why I believe that mums can make great leaders. I’d love to know your thoughts and even experiences in relation to this topic. Will you join the conversation?
I have sat down to write this post multiple times now and always been unable to finish it because honestly there seems to be an exhaustive list of reasons as to why mums make great leaders. Therefore, I have decided to start an ongoing conversation on the topic rather than a complete one-off blog post.
I must stress at the start that I believe all people, regardless of title, age or background can make great leaders. I simply choose to write about mums in particular because, not only does it provide personal encouragement as I navigate early motherhood, but also mothers historically have been discounted in leadership by others or themselves due to a lack of confidence, knowledge or misplaced perspective as to what leadership is. Fortunately for me, I live in an age and culture where that mindset has shifted, but there is still work to be done.
Motherhood certainly presents many opportunities in which to be stretched, challenged and grown (all the mums’ sigh). Opportunities that enhance and enrich our character and therefore leadership qualities if we allow them. With that said, to kick-start the conversation, here are what I believe to be, two fundamental attributes of good leadership that mums have…
“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”
John C. Maxwell
Ultimately I believe that leadership is influence. John C. Maxwell is well known for his teaching on leadership, and the above quote sums up perfectly why a mum can make a great leader. When we realise that leadership isn’t dependent on having a platform or title, we are empowered to lead well in all situations in our everyday lives.
As Sienna’s mummy, I have one of the greatest responsibilities to influence her well; to lead her. The power of a mums influence can shape a child for life. More now than ever I am aware of my influence. How I treat Sienna and others, how I demonstrate integrity and curiosity, my attitude to life and my countenance, all have the ability to help set the foundation for her character. She is unique and wonderful, has her own personality and gifts, and will develop her own set of interests, but my influence can provide an environment in which these things can be nurtured. Will I encourage and praise or criticise and put down? Will I lead with love and faith or bitterness and fear? The answers to those questions will help to set the trajectory for her life. The impact I have, amongst others, will also reach beyond her as she develops her own sense of leadership and influence that emanates from her everyday life.
This daily practised influence will only sharpen any further leadership I am privileged to have, in any sphere of life, with or without title or platform.
Proverbs 22 v 6 NIV
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
2 Timothy 1 v 5 NIV
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
John 15 v 13 (NIV)
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Mum life is hard work, the hardest I’ve ever done, 24/7 responsibility. Sienna had to overcome many little hurdles in her first 6 weeks of life and she wasn’t the easy baby I had imagined sticking in a carrier and picking up from where I left off.
Before Sienna arrived, I’d been leading a team at church alongside working, socialising, and running at 100mph, and going to the toilet on my own – luxury! (#mumstruggles). There is a freedom and independence that you have pre-kids that somewhat diminishes when you first become a parent. Now other mum’s may have easily embraced this change, but honestly, at the start, I struggled. I had to navigate this new responsibility of motherhood, relinquish control over my life, and lay aside many things that I had previously been involved in. Each mum’s sacrifice is different but equally significant. It’s not forever, but it won’t look the same on return. Hopefully, it will be different but better.
When you have a child, and in particular a baby, the needs of this little life become a priority. They can’t do much for themselves beyond their involuntary bodily functions, and even some of those have to be taken care of by someone else! When I look at Jesus, Who is, in my opinion, the greatest example of good leadership, His sacrifice was the greatest gift given to all and motivated by love, it changed history forever. As leaders, sometimes I think we get it the wrong way around when we look to those under our care only to do our bidding. Rather, motherhood reminds me that as I make sacrifices to love and value my child, to give her the best start in life, to focus on what I can give rather than get, the hope is that I will provide an environment in which she can flourish. As I encourage Sienna to be the best she can be, she will hopefully be empowered to in turn produce her best, and together as a family will be better and stronger and able to have more impact.
Motherhood is a labour of love. When I consider the scripture, 1 Corinthians 13, it strikes me that the description of love very much coincides with sacrifice. I particularly admire the statement in verse 8 which says, “Love NEVER fails” (emphasis added by me). To love is to sacrifice, but according to that statement, love has 100% success rate. I am learning as a mother that the sacrifices I have made for Sienna, motivated by love, have the potential to have a far greater impact than perhaps the things I initially mourned letting go of. I continue to learn that leadership is in fact servanthood.
I Corinthians 13 (NIV)
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
There’s so much I feel I could write on both of these points as well as many more, but I look forward to exploring this topic further in the future and inviting others to add their perspectives. So, for now, I will leave it there. Hopefully, it has encouraged some and made others think.
To be continued…
Join the conversation – what do you think?
This is going to sound a bit cliché and like I’m quoting a song lyric, but this year has been somewhat of a rollercoaster! I’ve lived through fear and faith, success and failure, joy and despair, growth and stand still, birth and endings, new and old, comfort and loneliness, confidence and doubt, excitement and monotony. Often it’s happened simultaneously or in a pendulum like fashion, swinging from one extreme to another, sometimes in the same hour! 2017 has seen some of the highest points and some of the lowest points I have ever had to deal with. That said, I made it, and not only did I make it but I’m excited to step into 2018. I’ve been stretched and tested in every way, physically, mentally and spiritually….. would I change anything? YES I would… ha! But that’s what a new year is for, a new page, a chance to apply all that I’ve learnt and grown in 2017. I never arrive, but I journey forward and hopefully leave behind what I don’t need, and take up what will nourish me and help me to build in 2018.
I’m grateful for every experience, everything has taught me something, good, bad or ugly and that is valuable! Grace has sustained me, and whilst my faith has been challenged, questioned and strained at times it is still the thread that weaves everything together, and ultimately brings me out on top. It resets my failures, informs my best decisions, gives me another chance and drives my passions. Without it I wouldn’t be me.
2018…. let’s go!