Guest Post: "Lead like a Mother" by Christina Parkman

It’s 3 am and I am wide awake after getting up to tend to my daughter and I can't fall back to sleep.  Maybe it’s the snoring handsome hunk next to me or the Chinese food I ate tonight, either way for some reason I’m laying here thinking about leadership and motherhood together.  It hits me that they really go hand in hand, so these are my thoughts (and bear in mind this is my husband’s blog so this is more about leadership than a Mother’s Day post.).

Leadership is big these days, it’s like “the thing,” and everyone wants in on being a leader and doing it with strength.  Honestly, I think it’s a little over done. Now don’t get me wrong, I think leadership is important, very important, but it’s more about who you are leading than it is about yourself. In my opinion, I think it should emphasize both.  So here I am, way too early in the morning to be awake and my great leader of a husband (this is not sarcasm) is sound asleep next to me.  I’m hearing our child wake up coughing and I’m tending to her while thinking about why, biologically, I am the one who hears her in the middle of the night. She’s not crying, or even trying to notify us that she’s awake, she’s just awake and my body, brain, heart, whatever it is inside of me, wakes me up to tend to her because, well, I am her Mom.  Immediately two things hit me: “Motherhood and leadership go hand in hand,” and “Why aren’t more leaders taking the time to research the largest group of collective leaders our world has ever seen in mothers?”

There are an estimated 2 billion Mothers in the world, that’s 28% of the population and 100% of the 7 billion people walking around on the earth today are here because of a mother. Mother’s lead the way in so many different areas: they lead in giving birth, they lead in butt wiping, owie care, and breast feeding. OK, now I realize these are blatantly obvious, but not so obvious could include: morals, self-worth, kindness, and love.

That said, there are three things that come to mind when I think of how mothers lead:

  1. Leadership doesn’t stop.
    From the time a woman is pregnant, she is leading. A lot of people don’t realize it, but a fetus is being nurtured by a mother not only because she is supplying nutrients for it to grow but also nurturing its emotional state.  While we were in the process of adopting our daughter, I read a book by a neuro-physiologist who stated that, even in utero a baby knows that it’s being abandoned because of how the mother neglects to talk to it, rub her belly, etc.  So essentially, for 18 years, a mother is leading her child through life.  After 18, leading turns more into guiding as the child may need, however, the mother is still there and most likely jumping at the chance to give her guidance. 
    Leaders, in general, have the choice to continue to lead an individual, but good mothers don’t have that choice, they can’t give up.  If more leaders would think that way it could change things.  Leadership and relationships in general would be better and more invested.
  2. Don’t keep trying something that doesn’t work.
    Can we all just agree to remember that what works for one person might not work for another, and that’s just fine? Most moms know what works for one child might not work for the other and she has to adjust her leadership accordingly.  In my case, I only have one child and sometimes what works for her in one season will fail in the next; she likes to keep me on my toes.  That said, I am constantly changing the way I show her love, the way I attach, and the way I discipline. 
    Leaders, if you’re trying a style of leadership and people aren’t getting it, you may need to adjust what you’re doing and try something new.
  3. You might have to teach something that you thought was obvious.
    Do you ever meet people and wonder, “Why don’t they know_______” because all along you thought that knowledge was inherent?  Well, most likely they were never informed or taught about that thing that you thought was so obvious.  Moms teach all sorts of things: how to crawl, how to eat with your fingers, how to play, dress, brush your teeth, do your hair, the importance of changing your underwear on a daily basis, cook, what not to eat under the sink so you don’t die, how to act in public, how to not be rude, how to be a good friend, how to be patient, the list goes on and on.  In leadership you might be surprised at the things that people don’t know, and even though they may be important to you, those are the things that you are responsible to teach.  I will not be a good at teaching my daughter math, or physics, or how to repair a car, or what kind of tool she’ll need for a project, or how to keep succulents alive (is there anyone that can do that?).  For now I am going to teach her and lead her in every thing I can think of. Eventually, the day will come when she’s 18 and she will be looking for a mentor to lead her in ways that I cannot (cue flood of tears) and I hope that they will lead her and help guide her into becoming the person that God has created her to be.

So if you are in leadership (and let’s be honest, we all are in some way or another) the next time you need advice, take a good look at a good mother and ask yourself, “What would she do?”