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Dear Mom, Did You Know You are a Leader?

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Dear Mom, you are a leader. Did you know that? Do you believe it? Well, you should.

Recently, I attended the Global Leadership Summit, an annual event that brings together some of the greatest leaders in the world. As I listened and tried to absorb as much as possible, I couldn’t help but realize how much of what they said relates to motherhood. But, how often do we think of moms as being leaders? Instead of building up and encouraging mothers to lead their brood of little people, we are often surrounded by the noise of Mommy Wars or distracted by the 10 hottest fashion trends…or some such superficial content. And what a disservice this is to mothers everywhere. I hear stories too often of moms being overwhelmed, stressed out, being bullied into making choices and unsupported for the decisions they do make.

Motherhood isn’t easy. It’s mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting, but it’s time we stop buying into carefully marketed noise and superficial distractions. Instead, I want to offer you encouragement to lead strong and lead well. Whether you feel like it or not, you are leading the next generation. You are building into them on a daily and hourly basis. You are their greatest point of influence, especially in the early years. You are a leader and, as Bill Hybels, host of the Global Leadership Summit, said, “Everybody wins when a leader gets better.” So, let’s get better at what we do.

Dear Mom, You are a Leader

Still not sure you’re really a leader? The following are actual quotes I collected during the Global Leadership Summit. Each one displays what leaders do. I think you’ll be surprised by how much you are already leading.

Leaders make a choice.

I know that many of you moms out there don’t feel like leaders. Maybe you’ve never been told that you are good enough to be a leader. Maybe you don’t feel extroverted enough, energetic enough, smart enough to be a “leader.” The truth is, anyone can learn to be a leader. It is a choice to step up and assume that position. As Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and chairman of Good 360, said, “Leadership is a choice. It can be learned by anyone.” Anyone. Even the tired mom who just wants a nap, the frustrated mom who just wants her kids to listen or the mom who has never quite felt good enough.

Leaders are resourceful.

“Resourcefulness is the most successful tool in a leaders toolbox,” said Hybels. Resourceful? What mom isn’t resourceful? Ever run out of diapers on a car trip and had to improvise? Ever broken up a disagreement between two toddlers who believe that the empty cardboard box is rightfully theirs and way more enjoyable than the abundance of toys around them? Ever had to parent the morning after getting exactly 19 minutes of sleep the night before? Yeah, moms know how to be resourceful. Moms know how to get things done even in less-than-perfect circumstances.

Leaders are unlockers of potential.

A lot of our job as mothers is fine-tuning the little ones in our care. Left undisciplined, we’d still be living as Barbarians. (I know, it does still feel that way some days.) So, even as exhausting and mentally taxing as it is, we teach wrong from right, please and thank you, safe and dangerous. As Fiorina said, “The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential of others.” We go beyond teaching just the basics and encourage our kids to be themselves, to embrace their personalities and be the unique individuals they were designed to be. We are unlockers of potential.

Leaders know their good, bad and ugly selves.

“Leadership is an intense journey within yourself,” said Jeffrey Immelt, president and CEO of General Electric. If that doesn’t describe motherhood, I don’t know what does. Being a mom has taught me more about myself than any amount of online personality quizzes ever could. (But, yes, I still take them.) I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of myself through the eyes of my little ones. (I’ve also learned that my ideal living location is California, not Northern Indiana, but I suppose I didn’t need a quiz to tell me that.)

Leaders speak softly.

We often think of leaders as being loud and take-charge personalities. But not all leaders are and not all mothers are. Susan Cain, the best-selling author of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” gave advice that every mother should hear: “May you have the courage to speak softly.” Often when we think of motherhood and especially disciplining, we think of loud and noisy situations, sometimes filled with yelling (even if we vow to avoid it). But as Cain points out, sometimes it takes more courage to speak softly. Sometimes it takes more courage to hold our tongues completely and let the kids learn from their own mistakes. Sometimes we need to simply lead through quiet actions.

Leaders make sacrifices.

“A real leader wants to sacrifice themselves for others regardless of the return on investment,” said Patrick Lencioni, best-selling author and president of The Table Group. Motherhood is full of sacrifices. I’m not going to say we’re all martyrs here, but it starts by giving up your body to grow a little human. (No, it will never really be the same after having a baby.) You give up your time, priorities and sleep to care for and raise them. As Lencioni points out, leadership is about sacrifice regardless of what the end result will be. You don’t change your daughter’s diaper contingent only on the fact that she will be the first woman president of our country. You do it without condition or without considering if you will get a good return on the investment of time. You do it because you love her.

Leaders get their hands dirty.

Speaking of diaper changes, sometimes what we must do as mothers makes us feel more like servants than it does leaders. But, consider what Ivan Satyavrata, senior pastor of Assembly of God Church, Kolkata, India, said, “Leaders must also be servants just as Christ washed the disciples’ feet at the last Passover meal.” Being a leader doesn’t mean you stand above the rest, looking down on them and ordering them around. Sometimes you have to kneel down and get your hands dirty. Is that motherhood, or what?

Leaders take one step at a time.

It’s easy to look at leaders and think they have it all figured out, that they have 5-, 10-, 50-year goals all mapped out. They know the steps they are taking today, the next day and every day after that. Let’s face it; in motherhood, we rarely have a thought-out game plan. Often our goal is just to get them out of the house in one-piece or to get back from a zoo trip with all the kids we took with us. Looking at motherhood as leadership can make us feel the pressure to have it all figured out, to know every step before we take it, to realize ways to set Sophie up for being president some day. As Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church said, “We don’t have to worry about how to change the world. We just need to take the next step.” Don’t get overwhelmed with all the details. Just take the next right step, even if it’s a baby step.

So, to all you mothers out there, you are a leader. Even if you don’t feel like it, know you are capable. You know how to be resourceful, you know how to get dirty, you know how to take one step at a time. Be an unlocker of potential, whether it’s your child’s or your own. Just lead well.

I want to hear from you. Do you feel like a leader? Have you ever considered motherhood a form of leadership?

Have you followed me on Pinterest yet? Or, see snapshots of my journey through motherhood by following me on Instagram at meaganchurch.

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