Why Mums Make Great Leaders Part IIII

you are lovely

For those new to this theme, let me explain. Last year I started a conversation entitled, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ Initially, this was mostly due to me becoming a first-time mum and navigating the new territory and title of Mother against the backdrop of leadership. The aim of the conversation is to encourage Mothers that they can make great leaders despite a historical context of being overlooked for leadership, by themselves or others due to their motherhood season. Sadly women and mothers still face discrimination within the arena of leadership today. Despite the fact that in Western culture we have made good progress and are moving forward, there is still work to be done. I am however grateful to live in a country and era in which we are free to address the topic. Women in different cultures and countries to my own still aren’t afforded the basic human right of freedom of speech and so we must help to fight for them.

With that said, this isn’t a political or rallying post, but rather one to inspire and encourage and bring hope to another. Whilst it’s addressed primarily to mothers, the message of positive influence transcends title and is the privilege and responsibility of all.

Good leaders influence well, they inspire greatness in others, they believe in a better future and they pioneer into the unknown. Today as I was scrolling through my Instagram stories, I came across an incredible example of great leadership by a mother posted by a friend who is herself a great leader and mother to five children! She posted a tale about Thomas Edison and his mother that reads as follows:

One day, as a small child, Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her, “Mum, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me that only you are to read it. What does it say?” Her eyes welled with tears as she read the letter out loud to her child, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.”

His mother did just that until she fell ill and passed away.

Many years after Edison’s mother died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century.

One day he was going through some of her things and found the folded letter that his old teacher had written to his Mother. He opened it… The message written on the letter read, “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” Edison became emotional reading it and later wrote in his diary, “Thomas A. Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the century”

Source unknown

Thomas Edison was a famous American inventor, probably best known for creating the first electric light bulb. If you google the above story, there is speculation around whether it is based on fact or more allegorical in style. Some believe that there was actually a conversation between the teacher and mother rather than a note, but whatever the truth of this particular report, the message is still important, words have power and mums have influence.  

Fact or fiction, reading about the courage and tenacity of Thomas’s mother reminded me once again of the power of leadership within mums. What a responsibility we have as parents to lead and influence our children well. Mrs Edison was unwilling to settle for a negative diagnosis of her son’s abilities. Believing in his potential and motivated by a mother’s love, she decided to set about creating an environment in which she could forge a better future for Thomas than that prescribed by his teacher. I doubt she could have foreseen the scale of impact that her decision and effort would have. What a great example for us all, whatever title we hold, mother, father, grandparent, friend, neighbour, work colleague or stranger, we each have the power to encourage or discourage. It’s a sobering thought to think that because of the nurture, influence and leadership of his mother in his early years and the guiding of his potential, his and her legacy continue to this day. If you’re reading this with the help of an electrical light, you are sitting partly under the fruit of Mrs Edison’s labours. A leader in her own right. 

I am blessed with two lovely sisters-in-law, one is my brother’s wife and the other Rich’s sister. Both are people who you could comfortably introduce to anyone because not only are they lovely, both can also hold a conversation with pretty much anyone. Interestingly, however, Rhiannon, Rich’s sister, as a child of about 18 months old wasn’t correctly finishing the end of her words. The Health Visitor wanted to refer her to a speech therapist, believing there to be further issues with her communication. Her mother Amanda, refused. Amanda knew that this developmental phase wasn’t due to a lack of intelligence or understanding on Rhiannon’s part as she was using language appropriately. Amanda believed that Rhiannon would eventually get there in her own time as long as her and Andrew (her Dad) kept regularly speaking to her. Today Rhiannon is a Cambridge medical graduate who went on to become a GP and is now a pastor who teaches and preaches as part of her job. Although Amanda didn’t know what Rhiannon would become, she believed in her future and influenced her present to help ensure her greatest potential could be fulfilled. 

Whatever season we may find ourselves in and whatever influence we may have or however we view that influence, big or small, whether it’s over one person, ten or multitudes, we have the ability to make a difference for good. We have an opportunity to create change and to speak hope and life into desperate situations. Never doubt the importance of who you are to someone and the power that your words hold. This post sits within the category of, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ but it’s really a message to anyone who is willing to love another and be brave enough to lead, even against the odds and at the risk of being misunderstood.

What legacy will we leave?

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18 v 21 (NIV)

To read more of this conversation click here 🙂

365 Days Later

365 days later

Technically upon writing this, it’s only 361 days since the birth of our beautiful daughter Sienna, but it’s her birthday week and I try and post on Mondays, what are a few days between friends?

Coming up to her first birthday has made me reflect on this past year and the highs and lows of becoming a parent.
I thought I’d ask myself and Rich, “If we had to choose three things that we’ve learnt over the past year what would they be?” It’s almost an impossible task to only pick three because it can be a daily stretch into the unknown, navigating continual beginnings, as she progresses from one stage to the next. However, we’re always up for the challenge so here they are:

Anna:

I’m Stronger Than I Think – Perseverance Pays Off

Perseverance takes on a whole new meaning when there is no get-out-clause, you’re sleep deprived and you have no previous experience to draw from. In the early days, weeks and months it often felt like I was climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops after not sleeping for a month! An uphill battle, with the least amount of energy, whilst feeling totally ill-equipped. Every now and then you stop to take a breathe and are awed by the view, but then it’s head down and back to the grind. However, I made it, each day was followed by night and each night followed by a new day. One step at a time, often one day at a time I put one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Not because it was easy, not because I had the training, not because I was always excited or passionate but because I had to. Now I think back to those early days as welcome distant memories, smiling at the highlights. Today Sienna presents new challenges with her strong will and determination (ha!) but every day she brings joy and life, and to see her grow and learn, smile and flourish make every drop of blood, sweat and tears worth it. There’s no amount of preparation that can make you ready for your individual unique child, it’s a journey that has to be lived, like many things in life.

I Love Sleep – Discipline Reaps Rewards

Thank God for sleep training! Like anything worth doing, it requires consistency and determination but it has huge benefits. From the start, we established the difference between night-time and day-time for Sienna due to some great advice. It hasn’t been easy and this year has meant I’ve hardly left the house on an evening. However, she now has no issues going to sleep pretty much anywhere as she’s in such a good routine, the sacrifice and continuity are really paying off. Parents have different approaches to different things but most likely for most, there’s still some discipline involved somewhere. Discipline requires keeping the long-term goal in view in order to outwork the daily, often mundane tasks to achieve your goals. Discipline can feel restrictive but it actually brings freedom in the end. Freedom to plan, freedom to enjoy its benefits, freedom from issues avoided through lack of discipline.

Just Call Me Bendy Barbie – Flexibility Is Key

One huge lesson for me has been learning to relinquish the need to always be in control. Preparation and schedules are all important and necessary but when the poop hits the nappy at 3 am in the morning in catastrophic proportions, you have to strip your child and chuck them in the bath whether you or they like it or not! I like to be in control of my own life, that’s not an uncommon or unreasonable ask. I’ve learnt to make plans but hold onto them lightly. I take a breath and whatever happens, try and enjoy and embrace the moment I find myself in. There’s nothing as important as this little tiny life that can’t wait another 5 minutes, a day, a week, a month or even a year if necessary.

Rich:

Be Kind To Each Other- Everyone Has Had A Tough Day

Being a parent is not easy. Whether it’s dealing with a cranky child all day, or having no sleep and having to go to work and deliver on projects. It’s tough, you’re shattered and probably just about holding it all together. It can be so easy in this type of stretching environment to play the “woe is me” card and paint a picture of how your day was way worse and far more stressful than that of your spouses… but don’t. Be kind to each other, prefer one another, go out of your way for one another. Try and laugh together, enjoy the absurdity of parenthood. Be kind with your words, they’re the oil that keeps the wheel spinning.

Children Love Easily And Forgive Quickly

It’s true and thank God that’s the case. We all get it wrong, probably way too frequently for our liking, but children are far more forgiving and resilient than we give them credit for. They aren’t insecure, they don’t care about what people think about them. As far as they’re concerned, they are the most awesome human being in existence. They don’t try and hide their emotions to be cool when daddy comes home from work, Sienna’s face lights up. When daddy tells Sienna off for touching the TV, there’s usually lots of frowns and a few tears, but her default position is towards love and closeness. It’s only when we grow up do we, unfortunately, learn how to be insecure.

“Important” Things Aren’t Really That Important

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” I like that thought. This year has been a discovery of what actually matters. As adults, we get so myopic in our view of success. Having Sienna has stripped away all pretence. The things I used to worry about just aren’t as important as they used to be. Perhaps I’ve got wiser, maybe I’m just more tired. Whatever it is, it feels good to remember that Sienna couldn’t care less whether I’m good at my job or not. She doesn’t care whether I get promoted, get a pay rise or drive a nice car. She just knows me as Dad, and to be honest I think that’s pretty cool.

365 days later sienna

 

Why Mums Make Great Leaders

why mums make great leaders

I have sat down to write this post multiple times now and always been unable to finish it because honestly there seems to be an exhaustive list of reasons as to why mums make great leaders. Therefore, I have decided to start an ongoing conversation on the topic rather than a complete one-off blog post.

I must stress at the start that I believe all people, regardless of title, age or background can make great leaders. I simply choose to write about mums in particular because, not only does it provide personal encouragement as I navigate early motherhood, but also mothers historically have been discounted in leadership by others or themselves due to a lack of confidence, knowledge or misplaced perspective as to what leadership is. Fortunately for me, I live in an age and culture where that mindset has shifted, but there is still work to be done.

Motherhood certainly presents many opportunities in which to be stretched, challenged and grown (all the mums’ sigh). Opportunities that enhance and enrich our character and therefore leadership qualities if we allow them. With that said, to kick-start the conversation, here are what I believe to be, two fundamental attributes of good leadership that mums have…

1. Influence

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

John C. Maxwell

Ultimately I believe that leadership is influence. John C. Maxwell is well known for his teaching on leadership, and the above quote sums up perfectly why a mum can make a great leader. When we realise that leadership isn’t dependent on having a platform or title, we are empowered to lead well in all situations in our everyday lives.

As Sienna’s mummy, I have one of the greatest responsibilities to influence her well; to lead her. The power of a mums influence can shape a child for life. More now than ever I am aware of my influence. How I treat Sienna and others, how I demonstrate integrity and curiosity, my attitude to life and my countenance, all have the ability to help set the foundation for her character. She is unique and wonderful, has her own personality and gifts, and will develop her own set of interests, but my influence can provide an environment in which these things can be nurtured. Will I encourage and praise or criticise and put down? Will I lead with love and faith or bitterness and fear? The answers to those questions will help to set the trajectory for her life. The impact I have, amongst others, will also reach beyond her as she develops her own sense of leadership and influence that emanates from her everyday life.

This daily practised influence will only sharpen any further leadership I am privileged to have, in any sphere of life, with or without title or platform.

Proverbs 22 v 6 NIV

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  

2 Timothy 1 v 5 NIV

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

2. Sacrifice

John 15 v 13 (NIV)

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Mum life is hard work, the hardest I’ve ever done, 24/7 responsibility. Sienna had to overcome many little hurdles in her first 6 weeks of life and she wasn’t the easy baby I had imagined sticking in a carrier and picking up from where I left off. 

Before Sienna arrived, I’d been leading a team at church alongside working, socialising, and running at 100mph, and going to the toilet on my own – luxury! (#mumstruggles). There is a freedom and independence that you have pre-kids that somewhat diminishes when you first become a parent. Now other mum’s may have easily embraced this change, but honestly, at the start, I struggled. I had to navigate this new responsibility of motherhood, relinquish control over my life, and lay aside many things that I had previously been involved in. Each mum’s sacrifice is different but equally significant. It’s not forever, but it won’t look the same on return. Hopefully, it will be different but better. 

When you have a child, and in particular a baby, the needs of this little life become a priority. They can’t do much for themselves beyond their involuntary bodily functions, and even some of those have to be taken care of by someone else! When I look at Jesus, Who is, in my opinion, the greatest example of good leadership, His sacrifice was the greatest gift given to all and motivated by love, it changed history forever. As leaders, sometimes I think we get it the wrong way around when we look to those under our care only to do our bidding. Rather, motherhood reminds me that as I make sacrifices to love and value my child, to give her the best start in life, to focus on what I can give rather than get, the hope is that I will provide an environment in which she can flourish. As I encourage Sienna to be the best she can be, she will hopefully be empowered to in turn produce her best, and together as a family will be better and stronger and able to have more impact.

Motherhood is a labour of love. When I consider the scripture, 1 Corinthians 13, it strikes me that the description of love very much coincides with sacrifice. I particularly admire the statement in verse 8 which says, “Love NEVER fails” (emphasis added by me). To love is to sacrifice, but according to that statement, love has 100% success rate. I am learning as a mother that the sacrifices I have made for Sienna, motivated by love, have the potential to have a far greater impact than perhaps the things I initially mourned letting go of. I continue to learn that leadership is in fact servanthood. 

I Corinthians 13 (NIV)

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There’s so much I feel I could write on both of these points as well as many more, but I look forward to exploring this topic further in the future and inviting others to add their perspectives. So, for now, I will leave it there. Hopefully, it has encouraged some and made others think. 

To be continued…

Join the conversation – what do you think?