My Mother saw the lion in me. This is not because my astrological sign is Leo, which is represented by a lion. She told me to take charge and showed me how to step up and take responsibility for my actions to benefit others. We usually think of leadership as a masculine trait, but the seeds of leadership development have maternal roots which blossomed under the tutelage of others.
Mothers initiated our leadership education. She was the driving force behind our early physical, mental, educational and spiritual development. Mother planted the seeds of leadership by modeling behavior, holding us accountable, introducing us to new experiences, coaching and encouraging us, cultivating gifts and pushing us out of the nest to participate and get involved in our surroundings.
Mother allowed us to explore different activities to find our talents. We were creative around her and she celebrated our ingenuity. Many of us have memories of our Mom taking us to the park, shopping and various school and church programs. She was eager to compliment us when we did something well and quick to discipline us when we were out of line. She was so proud of us. By supporting our interests she identified our gifts and bolstered our confidence.
We were her team. The climate in her leadership environment allowed us to blossom as we outwardly and subliminally listened to the valuable messages. We were constantly infiltrated by leadership qualities that emerged as she navigated the parenting process.
• Setting the vision for a possible future
• Establishing values and beliefs
• Providing direction, opportunities and resources
• Encouragement and reinforcement
• Discipline, feedback and developing healthy habits
Setting the vision for the future
We were told we could be anything we wanted to be. We were challenged to be and do our best. If we were going to be a janitor, we were told to be the best janitor. Education was strongly touted as the key to our future, as something no one could take from us. When I finished 8th grade, Mother asked, “What is next?” High school was the correct response. After high school, she asked, “What is next? I responded college, as we had discussed so many times since 8th grade. It was drilled into me at an early age that I was someone special and she saw me reaching my God given potential.
Establishing values and beliefs
The rules and regulations of life, the values and beliefs to guide our behavior and understanding of the world, were initially from our Mother. The stories she read, the lessons we learned in her presence and the experiences we received during playtime. She was the moral and religious center of the home. She showed what was important by how she spent her time and through the chores she distributed and the discipline she delivered. She practiced what she preached and walked the talk. My Mother was a continuous learner and went back to school and became a Registered Nurse. Additionally, she gained a BS degree after all of the children finished school. She was always active in community, school and church affairs.
Providing direction, opportunities and resources
We were instructed in the ways of approved and acceptable behavior. We were warned about actions that would not be tolerated. We were not going to embarrass and shame her or the family. My Mother was a stickler on manners and polite behavior. We had standards of good conduct which was anchored in the Golden Rule.
Mother gave us opportunities to express our opinions and grow our talents. I had a number of jobs through the years. I worked as a shoe shine boy, a paper boy, shoe salesman and shoveled snow to make extra money. I learned the value of hard work and how to handle money. I also benefitted from collecting money from her Avon customers. I could always count on her doing anything to see that I had what I needed. She paid for my art supplies, new clothes to march in a parade and prepared me for many other school projects.
Encouragement and reinforcement
When we fell she picked us up and made us feel better. She always knew what to say when we were hurting. She was our biggest fan. She had confidence in us. My Mother had many children and she treated us all differently and there were no favorites among the children. If she was leaning toward one of the others, she was open to talk about it. My Mother told me I was the Chosen One. My response was chosen by whom to do what? It was her way of letting me know there was a purpose for my life and I had to find out what it was. When others seemed to abandon us, Mother was always in our corner offering words of support, guidance and forgiveness.
Discipline, feedback and developing healthy habits
Mother was known for providing simulations to prepare us for life in the real world, although we did not call them simulations. She gave us positive and reasonably realistic feedback when we did well. She checked our homework to make sure it was done and done correctly. She did not let us off the hook. She held us accountable for our actions and helped lay down the law and maintain the order.
When we broke the rules, the punishment usually fit the offense. She wanted us to get in the habit of doing our best and acting properly. There was a saying and a television program that said, “Father knows best.” If that was true Mother knew that and all the rest.
My Mother challenged me to learn and present a very long drama poem when I was ten years old. The Creation by James Weldon Johnson was in her English literature text book when she was in night school. She worked with me and checked with me until I mastered the piece. I began performing it in church services all over the city for many years. She brought out my gift of public speaking and made me comfortable in front of crowds.
I realize that some may have a different opinion of their Mother’s role in sowing and demonstrating leadership principles into their lives. Some may have received examples of how a leader should not perform. Nevertheless, we know the value of strong leadership in altering the course of lives and organizations.
When we search our memories and review the books, theories, seminars and the performance of actual leaders, let us not forget where many were first exposed to lessons on leadership. We should recognize and celebrate the awesome contributions of Mothers. They should be honored for the role they play in developing leaders of today and leaders of tomorrow. During the time we spent on our Mother’s knee, in her lap or at her feet, we were overtly or covertly immersed in the relationship between Motherhood and leadership.
Copyright © 2010 Orlando Ceaser