Want To Be a Great Leader? Act Like a Mother

It’s never too late to remind ourselves that true leadership starts at home, and leadership at home is about the little things. The things that we need to grind away at day after day. The things that don’t seem to matter too much or feel like our daily nuisance, until we ignore them and feel the weight of their impact down the line.

I suppose this is directed at the men out there who think that helping with the dirty dishes, straightening up the family room after the kids have destroyed it, doing the food shopping, or reading one last story to your kid after an exhausting day, is beneath them. The men who won’t change a diaper. I guess poo-poo can be scary.

Have you ever really watched a mother grind? Kids up, kids to bed; Kids to school, kids home; meals prepared, meals eaten; dishes clean, dishes dirty, dishes back to clean; house clean, house dirty, house back to clean; kids clean, kids dirty, kids back to clean; holiday cards out, birthday cards out, thank you cards out; laundry clean, laundry dirty, laundry back to clean. This list goes on and on.

And, of course, the ever-present question that only she can answer, “Mom, where’s my (insert anything)?” The response is usually something like, “Right where I told you it belongs.”

“Put your shoes away! Clean up your room! Make your bed! Eat your vegetables! Don’t speak to your sister that way!” ……” I love you! You can do it! It will be ok! You’re beautiful! You’re handsome! You’re hardworking! You’re special!”

The “nagging” orders over every little thing (see above: room, bed, vegetables, etc.) signify one thing: culture. The mother’s verbal orders eventually give way to a stern look which sends the clear message, “This is not how we do business around here.” And everyone understands. Because the mother understands that guidelines for behavior on a daily basis are what makes the family run effectively. Likewise, with the next set of orders (see above: love, encouragement, etc.). This is simply how business is done in a mother’s world.

The mother gets a reprieve, maybe a few days away with friends. All hell breaks loose at home. Good fun initially, but then everything around us is in chaos and it doesn’t seem so fun anymore. And then the culture that Mom has been hammering away at for years kicks in. “No Dad, we put our dishes in the dishwasher.” “No Dad, we’re supposed to take a shower tonight.” “Dad, your shoes don’t go there.” “Sure brother, we can watch your show.” “Is everything ok, sister? I love you!”

When children are in distress, they yell, “I want my Mommy!” There is a reason they do that. Because the mother leads. The mother sets and enforces guidelines. The mother establishes all the little things that make up a culture. Everyone in the family knows what the mother means when she says, “This is not how we do business around here.”

So, gentlemen, what have you done lately to lead where it really matters…at home. Now get up and pitch in. And guess what? It’s really hard to do. Welcome to leadership.

Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coachingkeynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.

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