Why Great Moms Make Great Leaders

By Scott Westerman

Listen to an audio version of this message.

“Motherhood is.. the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs In Heaven

Robyn Ackerman wrote a great post this week about a certain group of people who are, perhaps, most likely to develop great leadership traits. “If you are looking for a new job,” she writes, “make sure to add ‘mom’ to your resume.” Here’s my take on Robyn’s list the skills that the resumes of great mothers and great leaders share:

A demonstrated ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously: “You need a leader”, Robyn says, “that can juggle all the different decisions of your business. Mom’s are the best multi-taskers around.” I tend to favor leaders who have demonstrated the ability to continue their education, engage in the community and prioritize family, while delivering excellent results. Moms taught us how.

A track record of effective strategic thinking and tactical execution:  As Robyn notes, Moms are the best planners. They are able to execute parallel projects while keeping an eye on the big picture. If you grew up in a house where there were lists on the fridge and even your TV time was scheduled, you know what I mean.

Able to balance high professional productivity with personal life: This is my resume description for a person who can function on very little sleep, while maintaining their physical and mental health. Robyn alludes to young managers who struggle to perform the day after a night of heavy partying. Ask any mom who was up all night with a sick child about the next day’s to-do list. It gets done anyway. And most effective moms model a healthy exercise and diet regime, so their kids will too.

Accepts challenging assignments with professionalism and class: When I watch my kids deal with my grandson during a meltdown, I think of co-workers who whine because their cubicles are too small or the person in the next one is too noisy. Moms live the Stockdale Paradox every day: Deal with unpleasant current realities but expect to achieve your objective in the end.

Practices active listening skills. Seeks to understand before seeking to be understood: When it comes to wonderful moms, there are no better listeners. “Mothers develop a 6th sense for when someone needs some extra attention,” Robyn writes. ” A successful manager, like a successful mother knows that by listening to thoughts, ideas and concerns of her employees it will help her better direct them down the best road for success.”

Proven work ethic: We admire leaders who always show up, take on extra assignments and get the job done, even when allergies, sore backs or aches and pains may be hiding under the surface. Mom’s don’t get sick days. Even though our team members do, I watch carefully how they use them.

Models effective leadership behaviors: From learning your colors and numbers to restaurant etiquette, moms lead by example. They know that all behavior is learned and that everyone blooms in their own time. They keep teaching the right way to do things until it becomes reflexive. And since no two kids (or team members) are the same,  they can do it across a wide array of personality traits.

Defuses tension while standing up for the team: If you’ve ever been chased by a two year old with a single minded desire for gummy bears, you know that moms develop ways to focus energy in productive directions. And woe to the person who even thinks about hurting your kid. Like the best leaders, great moms are ready for battle, even as they may pick them carefully.

Creates systems that reward productive behaviors: Nobody knows your potential better than your mom. They expect that you’ll do your best, even in those moments of self doubt  and failure. They put you back on your feet, point you in the right direction and are always there to cheer you at the finish line.

Robyn includes one more trait – Food. I would write that resume item this way: Creates a work atmosphere that generates high results and high team member satisfaction. “Yup, we mothers are used to feeding many mouths,” she concludes, “and that doesn’t change for adults!”  I interpret this beyond fuel for the palate. The best leaders recharge your emotional batteries, inspire you to continue to feed your mind, and create a work atmosphere that is a smorgasbord of opportunity at every level.

Read Robyn’s full essay on “Why Moms Make Great Managers” at littleredmommyhood.com. And whomever your mother role model may be, take a moment this week to thank them.. for teaching you the fundamentals of how to be a great leader.