What makes a mom a leader? Motherhood nurtures the traits needed in someone who leads. Check out these 8 leadership qualities of a mother.
In the workplace, moms are penalized while dads are promoted. From The New York Times:
“One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children. Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications.
For men, meanwhile, having a child is good for their careers. They are more likely to be hired than childless men, and tend to be paid more after they have children.”
I certainly saw this at an old workplace where those in top leadership roles were not only men, but fathers, too. Meanwhile, women played supporting roles, even though there were plenty of us to climb the ranks.
This goes beyond the typical workplace, too. Just look at our current seats in government where half of the population doesn’t make up half of the leadership roles.
In fact, giving women equal opportunities doesn’t just benefit women, but can raise entire countries:
“Giving women greater economic empowerment benefits their households, their communities and ultimately their countries.” –King’s College London
Leadership qualities of a mother
But let’s backtrack a bit, right to your own home.
Perhaps you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a while and are considering returning to work, but feel unqualified for not earning an income all this time. Or you’re a working mom but feel like you’re not doing enough compared to your male counterparts or even the women at work who don’t have kids.
These feelings are valid, considering how many moms feel unappreciated and undervalued. “I’m just a mom” is a common phrase that always makes me cringe. And the elusive “super mom” seems all but unattainable.
Because, let’s face it, this is one of the hardest jobs to handle. If a stay-at-home parent were paid for their services, the median annual salary would be $178,201. In other words, being a mom isn’t exactly easy-peasy.
In fact, many of the qualities we learn on this job translate well to leadership roles in the long run. Yup, even if the ones you’re “leading” are toddlers and babies at home. By doing what we do—whether we work or stay at home—we learn valuable leadership skills in raising our kids. Here are just a few:
Being able to communicate clearly and well is a crucial skill for effective leaders. A leader needs to be able to express herself, from sharing a grand vision to outlining the details that need to happen.
Being a mom gives us more than enough opportunities to practice this skill. How often do we need to consider the person we’re talking to in order to make sure she understands what we’re saying? How many times do we choose our words carefully for others’ cooperation?
At the same time, we also develop listening skills. We listen to our kids share details of their day, no matter the topic. We know their hobbies, what sets them off, and why they’re acting weird. Just as much as we communicate to them, so too do we hear what they’re saying as well.
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One of the key characteristics of a leader is the ability to assign tasks to others. Everyone should do not only what they’re good at, but what only they can do. Sure, a restaurant chef might enjoy designing logos and menus, but she’s the only one who can create signature dishes.
The same is true with motherhood.
We can obviously tie shoelaces, fold laundry, and make beds—and we can probably do them better than our kids. But, as much as possible, we let them own the task so that we can do the ones that they can’t.
After all, they can’t earn an income, pay the bills, or drive to the grocery store. The more we can delegate tasks that they can do, the more time we have to do the ones that only we can.
And one key skill to master with delegation? The ability to guide without hovering. No one likes a micromanager—or a helicopter mom. By showing, guiding, and eventually allowing them to do these tasks on their own, the more empowered they feel.
Being responsible is a trait we hone all our lives, but more so as a mom. We’re responsible for our kids for nearly everything, from basic needs to emotional support. Just as a leader is responsible to her team, so too do our little ones look to us to lead the way.
We’re also accountable for our actions, both good and bad. When we do something wrong, we own our mistakes and apologize. We practice humility with our accomplishments and give credit where it’s due.
It doesn’t matter how many initiatives employees try to start—it won’t gain steam unless the leader owns it as well. After all, people look to her to model how to behave, and unless she participates or at least supports these endeavors, they’re bound to be forgotten.
The same is true at home. As moms, we lead by example, in both good and bad ways. How many of us have seen our kids yell at their siblings with what they could’ve only picked up from us?
But more often than not, living out your values and ideals teaches them far more than any lecture or talk can. They know to do their evening chores when they see you do the same, and they appreciate the garden because you’re often tinkering in the backyard.
Look at any mom’s planner and you’ll see organization skills at their best. After all, we track dentist appointments, library books to return, and preschool events. We make sure weekend events don’t conflict or overlap, and we record every tiny detail.
We’re able to plan ahead, from what’s in store this month to when to schedule the next orthodontist appointment. We move activities around, balancing them so as not to overwhelm anyone.
And let’s not forget all the due dates. From paying property taxes twice a year to withdrawing money for the farmers market, we know when things need to get done.
If you’ve ever felt like your family would be lost without you, that’s your organization skills at work, my friend.
A leader needs to develop empathy for others, from navigating conflict to listening to the front lines. By understanding what other people feel and experience, she’s better able to put herself in their shoes.
Moms, we do the same all the time. Think about how often you’ve acknowledged your child’s feelings, no matter how she behaved. Or the times you pointed out her fears and made her feel normal for having them. And of course, sibling rivalry would be so much worse without your empathetic ear.
Every one of us will face challenges, no doubt. As moms, we not only meet the ones we experience, but those that concern our families as well.
It’s hard not to break down when your child has a medical scare. Staying positive can feel all but impossible when the day has already started off so wrong. And let’s not forget that, no matter how hard the job, there simply is no quitting in parenthood.
Resilience allows moms—and leaders—the chance and the courage to bounce back from difficulty. Hardship may be inevitable, but wallowing in despair certainly isn’t. With a resilient spirit, we pick ourselves back up, no matter how hard the fall.
Great leaders—and great moms—inspire others, often without intending to.
By living your best life, you’re already the leader your kids need. They may not be able to articulate it yet, but they can feel it.
It’s the reason they turn to you for advice and guidance, or pick up the same hobbies and ideals you hold. Why they dutifully do their homework, knowing that you would do the same in their shoes. And why they make the right choices, even when you’re not looking.
It’s no wonder that so many people point to their parents as an inspiration in their own way.
Not all people equate motherhood with effective leadership, and it’s a shame, considering how many qualities both share.
Moms excel in communication skills, and delegate tasks to focus on the ones only we can do. We’re responsible for our families and hold ourselves accountable in many ways. We teach by modeling the behavior we want to see.
Our organization skills are top notch, keeping our daily lives humming along smoothly. We show empathy for others to better understand and help them feel heard. Our resilience allows us to overcome challenges, both big and small. And we inspire others, from our kids to our friends and families.
We still have work to do to get more women in leadership roles, and we certainly shouldn’t penalize women for being moms. After all, we’re developing important skills a true leader needs—right at home with our kids.
Get more tips:
- 3 Meaningful Lessons Moms of Boys Need to Teach
- 7 Reasons You’re Not Enjoying Motherhood
- Top 7 Qualities of a Good Father
- These Are the Things Your Kids Will Remember About You
- On Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood
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