Mar 042013 1 Response

Learn To Lead From Your Momma

Method is defined by metaphor.

How we lead is determined by the metaphor we use for leadership.

  • If the first picture which comes to mind for leadership is a president, the method likely involves power, speeches, and symbols of strength.
  • If the picture is that of a coach, the method is probably motivation, team interaction, and a mixture of strong discipline and personal concern.
  • If the picture is that of professor, the method probably relies heavily on information, debate, and being right.

Whatever our primary image for leadership, our method naturally flows from it.

There is an image for leadership which few ever consider, yet it is our first introduction to being led. The image is that of a nursing mother.

Our first model for leadership is our mother. From the moment we are plopped onto her belly to the many late night feedings, moms teach us an aspect of leadership in a way that few others can.

The primary lesson of leadership from a nursing mom is that leaders put need above cost. They put the needs of others above the personal cost to themselves.

Leaders are driven by need. They are motivated by a problem and are passionate about finding a way to fix it. Finding a solution and implementing that solution can come at a tremendous personal cost, but the cost is minimized in the mind of a leader because the need is so much greater.

There are many personal costs to leadership:

Leaders will be lonely. No matter how many people surround a leader, there is no one with whom a leader can share the full burden of leadership. It’s the nature of the task. While many leaders are too lonely because of their personal failure to delegate authority, build friendships, and communicate their feelings, no leader can remove the full isolation of leadership.

Leaders will be criticized. Generally the only people who do not get criticized are those who do not do anything. Criticism is a part of leadership. Even when a leader is doing exactly what is necessary, some what understand it, many won’t have the all the information to know what is right, and a few simply find a great joy in criticizing anyone who is doing something. Ironically, leadership at its best often means getting criticized from every side.

Leaders will be misunderstood. The position of leadership often gives us more information than others. While we never know the whole story, we often know more of the story than the general public. This imbalance of information ensures that a leader’s actions will be misunderstood. They will be seen as selfish, arrogant, ignorant, and a variety of other negative characteristics. While leaders must do everything in their power to ensure they are not selfish, arrogant, ignorant, etc. they can expect to be viewed that way by well-meaning people who do not know the whole story and by some not so well-meaning people who willfully remain ignorant of the facts.

Leaders will be attacked. Because leaders attack problems and attempt to solve them, they open themselves up to personal attacks. Humanity is prone to attack people instead of problems. We ignore the issues, but fixate on the people trying to solve the issues. When leaders attempt to lead, they put themselves in position to be attacked.

One difference between a leader and a non-leader is that a non-leader is surprised by the cost of leadership. They think it is unique and a sign saying they should give up. A leader understands the cost and knows that experiencing some negative consequences is not a sign they should stop leading, but is actually a sign their leadership is working. For a leader, whether or not one should continue is neve determined by the cost, but by the need. As long as the need is present, the leader will continue to try to fill the need.

It’s Monday, what need do you see?

Will you be driven by the need or the cost?



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