Mother Knows Best- Leadership Lessons from Mom

“My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” (Forrest Gump) This saying is just as true in business as it is in your personal life. No matter your plans, projections, initiatives, or goals, you never really know what you’re going to get in your business. From your recruiting and hiring practices, to the decisions made in the C-suite, as much as we like to think we can control outcomes, there are simply no guarantees in business (and life).

However, the one thing that you CAN control is your reaction to the daily nuances and fluctuations in your business. Like the old adage from Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” As a leader, there are many things that you cannot control, but you can always make a decision as to how you respond to the challenges you face.

Here are some leadership lessons taught by mom:

Watch Your Mouth!

If there is anything that would be a welcome relief in the volatile political world that we’re currently experiencing, it would be this: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything. I don’t want to digress down a political hole here, as I understand that people feel strongly about certain things, and they are compelled to speak at what they believe are injustices. I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to the general movement in our world today to immediately attack people’s character when we disagree with them. Sometimes people just make mistakes, and we’re all a work in progress.

Great leaders find a way not only to control the things they say, but they also find ways to reserve judgment. When an employee makes a mistake, you can’t control that. However, you can control how you respond to him. Do you use it as a teaching moment, or do you use it to question his intelligence or loyalty? Do you lift up, explain, and encourage, or do you say things that denigrate your employee’s morale?

Give Them The Benefit of The Doubt

Mom always told me to assume the best in people, and to give them the benefit of the doubt. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people (the vast majority of the time) are just doing their best in life, whether it be as a parent, a student, or an employee. There are going to be those people who try to take advantage of situations or others, and there will be those who are out to crush the competition by any means necessary. However, even in those examples are people who are ultimately trying to survive and even succeed the best way they know how.

As a leader today, one of the greatest gifts you can give your staff (family and friends) is the benefit of the doubt. I think it can be easy to become jaded, and assume that someone has an ulterior motive as to why they did something with which you disagree or dislike. However, communication is key in those instances. Instead of assuming that they have some vindictive motive, or that their intelligence is lacking, give them an opportunity to explain without feeling threatened. In short, find a way to trust people; it will help you build true influence, as well as relational capital as a leader.

Sit Up Straight. Stop Slouching.

This bit of wisdom has less to do with appearances, and more to do with the belief you have in yourself. It’s mom’s way of saying, stand up, be strong, and expect the best! There’s no reason to be down on yourself, so stand tall and put your best effort forward.

For leaders, this is sound advice. Believe in yourself, stand up and lead in your strength. It’s like a mentor once said, “You can’t stand in front of a room full of leaders with your hands in your pocket apologizing for being there. You have to lead.” Finding ways not to get down on yourself is important, and it’s crucial to your mental well being during the difficult seasons.

But the other side of this is that you can pass along this wisdom to those who look to you as a leader. Building up your employees is a powerful tool you have at your disposal. Lift them up, believe in them, and help them to stand tall to be their very best!

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Leadership guru and businessman, Jim Rohn, taught, “You are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” No matter your level of leadership or influence, who you surround yourself with, is critical to your future development as a leader and person. This obviously doesn’t mean that you look down on others, or that you consider yourself to be “better” than others. What it does mean is that you surround yourself with those who are doing what you want to do, or have what you want. If you’re a high performance player, surround yourself with others who are high in ambition, and who have something to offer your development and steps toward success.

Finding people who can support you, hold you accountable, will listen, push you, and people who won’t let you settle for less than your best is critical to your life, both personally and professionally.

Thanks, Mom!

No doubt, mom knows a lot of things about life. There’s certainly much more wisdom that she has, but we’ll finish with these, for today. Listen to your mother, and become the leader she always knew you could be!