When we think of great leaders, those who succeed moving immovable mountains, conquering insurmountable evils, or winning against all odds…it’s not just what they did, it’s that they inspire that kind of courageous action within ourselves. We love to glorify leaders, I mean who doesn’t love a hero? But when we think about it, what leadership lessons did we truly learn from them?
If we think back to our childhood, who was the one you remember moving your mountains? Who stuck up for you when the other neighborhood kids were mean, who made sure you had your turn on the Big Wheel, or who understood your horror when you struck out in Little League? The one who got the grass stain out of your favorite jeans and who calmed us down when we were the only ones not invited to a party.
For many of us, that first hero was our Mum, filling all the necessary roles we needed for us to find our way, protecting us from threat, ensuring we were in an environment we could thrive in…this is what a true leader does. Our first examples of servant leadership were right before our eyes, our Mums.
As we grow up and our world expands beyond our family, our expectations of heroes and leadership also expands. But we also begin to compromise those expectations of a great leader. It becomes ‘just life’ that a company doesn’t protect us from layoffs because they have numbers to hit, it’s ‘paying our dues’ when managers embarrass themselves by taking and not giving credit, it becomes ‘unfortunate but necessary’ to sacrifice cultivating the environment (and therefore the people expected to perform in it) because there are other priorities. We begin to see more and more examples of the fabled evil Step Mum.
We are the ones who get to decide what we will tolerate and what we will not, and how will we lead in our own lives? The joy of servant leadership comes from seeing other people become their best selves. That is the success…and all efforts are on ensuring the path is as safe as it can be. We can still emulate the leadership lessons we were shown when we were young if we approach our colleagues, our environments with the same selflessness. This is not a reciprocity-based relationship, there is no expected return, there are no scorecards (funny thing is…the returns show up anyway). It’s giving responsibility with accountability, while never turning your back on your tribe…no matter the outcome of their efforts.
Yes, it’s risky to take the first step, but truly…what is your cost? You must be the leader you want to have lead you, no matter if it’s reciprocated or not.
What better way to honor Mum than to take a closer look at how you help others thrive? Do that, make Mum proud, let her see she showed you how it’s done.
Karyn Danielle Chylewski is a business leadership coach who wants you to inspire and influence thoughtful action within your team…so they can contribute their gifts to your business, and as a team you get to love the work you do.