This whole Lead Like a Mother idea has been kicking around in my psyche for a few years now. I’ve talked a lot about it (mostly over wine with the GFs), idly typed words around it and have deftly (artfully, even) avoided the hard work of bringing it to life, busying myself with other, more pressing demands. Because while the notion of Lead Like a Mother seems simple and intuitive – practically a no brainer – turning that notion into something tangible and practical is, well, not exactly a finger-snap. Like the role of motherhood itself, the reality of applying those principles is far more complex than it sounds.
On the surface, LLAM is the application of a maternal skill-set. Makes a lot of sense, right? But it’s far more than a mantra or mindset or 5-step process – it’s deeper than that. It’s a heart for raising up the next generation of leaders, and a willingness to invest in them. A commitment to hard work. And the gumption to live a life that’s truly proof of our values.
And while I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on actually making it real, now that it’s finally(!) happening(!), I feel the need for a shoutout to the mothers who’ve inspired me over the years. Now for a bit about these lovely ladies…
My own mother and her circle of friends were women who soldiered through life’s greatest obstacles with undeterred determination, lifelong grit and a buoyancy that transcended their reality. It is from them that my own character was shaped. I watched these women stretch and struggle as the first generation to work both inside and outside of the home – a life-juggle jujitsu. Traditional gender roles were still the rule of the day, and hadn’t yet been redefined. The same pressures existed to keep a perfect home, raise perfect kids, and look perfect too – all while bringing home a paycheck to help cover the monthly bills. For them it wasn’t career building. It was a slog for financial survival. Is it any wonder they needed “Mommy’s Little Helpers?!”
Once I started working, my first boss was influential too. Ann was a Role Model with a capital RM. A pint-sized bulldog with a hold-on-while-I-look-that-up vocabulary. She was a tremendous writer, voracious reader and skilled relationship builder. She assembled a portfolio of business that punched well above the reputation of the agency. Kind, fun-loving and true, she taught me that you didn’t have be a bitch to be successful as a woman. But you couldn’t be a pushover either.
Then there was Madeline – Madwoman personified. She held court in a spacious office in the executive wing and reduced men and women alike to tears with her caustic observations. She wielded power through her portfolio and suffered no fools. She owned the most valuable relationships in the agency, and therefore garnered the most respect. Plus she had a fabulous car.
Also, Kate, the embodiment of buttoned-up. No client or category news escaped her notice. No detail too small to be observed, and she had absolutely no tolerance for slapdash performance. There was Shawne– working mom extraordinaire – who could drive, pump breast milk and talk shop on her cell phone all at the same time (pre-Bluetooth, obviously, which required even more skill). She knew how to find the fun and was eternally optimistic. And Roxann – one of the keenest strategic minds I’ve ever encountered. Fearless and determined, but also kind and funny.
And then there were instructive women outside of work. Ginny, the earth mother, and inventor of Monday Funday. She built wide-open spaces for creativity and general tomfoolery. But remained focused on all the right things. And my sister-cousins, Letty, Sara Jane and Mary – my tribal like-minders. In their midst, nothing shared was too ugly, too trivial, or too snarky. What a tremendous relief they are. And the members of MMM (Mom’s Monthly Meetings) – Ann, Apryl, Amber, Kirsten, Jodi, Wendy, Wendy, Renate, Paula, Molly and Pam – my support network of wine and snacks, uniting and fortifying against the pressures of competitive parenting, and a sharing circle designed to vanquish teenage liars. We still meet though our sons and daughters are long past needing parental supervision.
For the ones who don’t see your names here, know that I am ever so thankful for you too. It’s for the great big bunch of you that I do this. Because I believe we all have something to say, and to learn and to share.
So here goes everything.