As a new mom, I have learned that motherhood and leadership are very close cousins. In motherhood, similar to leadership, you must decide to jump in, trust your instincts, and commit to being your absolute best, while embracing your shortcomings and always seeking to grow and learn.
Here are the top three lessons motherhood has taught me about leadership:
There is no rule book.
I did what most others do in preparation for the arrival of my son: I went to the classes, I bought the books, and I had conversations with other new and seasoned moms. And those things were helpful. However, the reality is, the last thing I was thinking about when I first arrived home from the hospital was what I learned in my classes or had read some five or six months ago. The time was now for me to get my hands dirty (quite literally), do my best to implement what I had learned and trust my instincts.
The same is true for leadership. No amount of books, classes and conversations can truly prepare you for the journey of leadership. The preparation helps, but when the rubber hits the road, you’ve got to trust that you have what it takes to get it done and go!
Comparison is truly the killer of joy.
Naturally, when I would see other new moms that looked like they had it all together, I wanted to run up to them and ask them to share their secrets. Anyone who has children knows that before the baby arrives, you receive an overwhelming amount of advice—both solicited and unsolicited. When I attempted to try pieces of advice that others gave me, some of it worked for me and some of it did not. What happened next is a very easy trap to fall into—I began to compare myself to other moms… “Well this didn’t seem that difficult for her,” or “If she does it this way and her baby and is happy and healthy, it must mean I need to do it that way.” That my friends is a definite no-no. Once my son was around five months old, I took a step back and decided that I was not going to compare any longer. I sat down and wrote my own intention for how I am going to show up as a mom when it comes to my son, and that is the only standard by which I operate.
The same is true for leadership. We look around and see others doing “leadership their way” and if they are successful or appear to have it all together, we attempt to mimic their style of leadership. Or worse yet, we compare ourselves to other leaders and don’t take the time to discover our own authentic leadership. As with motherhood, no two moms do it alike, and it is the same for leaders. Find your own unique style and rock it!
Someone is waiting for me to step up.
I am sure I’m not alone when I say that once my son actually arrived, I was not “ready” to be a parent. Sure, I had prepared by attending classes and reading (well, scanning) books as much as I could. Sure, my husband and I had talked about responsibilities and who was going to do what once we got home from the hospital. Sure, we had family and friends planning to help out. Sure, his nursery was 90% finished. Sure, I had done the paperwork with my employer to make sure that my benefits were covered. But in terms of truly being “ready” – are you ever really ready to be a parent? I think the general consensus here is no! However, at the end of the day, once he was here, he needed me to be his mother, ready or not.
The same is true for leadership. Someone on your team, within your organization, or in your community is waiting for you to step up. They are not asking you to be perfect, but they are asking you to give it your all. You don’t have to do everything exactly right. And as a matter of fact, the imperfection and messiness of it all is what makes us relatable and human. Do not let perfection be the enemy of good.
All in all, we are usually our own worst enemy. I had to remember that every single experience that I have ever had in life helped to prepare me for the moment that my son was born. Life itself is a training ground—not just the formal training moments—and when we look at it that way, each of one us, in our way, is and will continue to be a leader in training.