Worried your leadership skills aren’t up to scratch? Discover four ways that simply being a mum is pretty much the best leadership training you can get.
Whether you’re an employee, freelancer or business owner, there will inevitably come a time when you’ll need to step up to the plate as a leader. And for many this can feel daunting. Do you have the right qualities? Temperament? Authority? Are you even qualified to lead?
As a mum, we’d say absolutely ‘Yes!’ Freelance leadership trainer, coach and consultant Clair Fisher from Pashley Fisher explains why having children is pretty much the best informal leadership training there is.
Leadership skills are essential
Being a leader is an incredible challenge and an awesome responsibility. For many who find themselves newly promoted to positions of leadership, the pressure to do well can be intense. But whether you are working on your own or within a corporate structure, leadership skills are essential.
I work regularly with leaders across sectors, and I’ve noticed that often women are much more likely to lack confidence in their own abilities. We’re also much more likely to ask for help and support. I want to show you how being a mum is great leadership practice; you already have so many transferable skills!
Four ways being a mum is great leadership training
So here are four ways I have observed that being a mum is fantastic leadership training for the workplace.
1) Project management
If you can run a family home you can most certainly run a team. Think about the million things that you juggle just to keep the show on the road… parentmail, lunchboxes, school trips, uniform, laundry, menu planning, shopping, patchworking childcare, organising bills, holidays, doctors appointments – the list goes on.
The skill of mostly keeping everything ‘up in the air’ while being prepared to quickly admit it and recover when something inevitably falls, is invaluable for leadership. And as a mum you will be an instinctive expert in prioritising, budgeting and delegating.
One of the most liberating leadership lessons is admitting that you can’t do everything yourself – and that’s okay! In my house often one of the big kids will hear the little one read. And it’s the same in teams; it makes sense to delegate supervision of new staff to another colleague.
In my house I’ve ‘outsourced’ the cleaning and ironing (hooray!). And I’ve done the same in my business with website creation and accounts.
It’s no sign of weakness to know where your talents lie, to have a sensible appreciation of the how much your time is worth, and to delegate things that others could do better to free up your own valuable time.
3) Training and development
As parents we are ambitious for our children and are proud when they achieve milestones of independence; walking, riding a bike, reading. We instinctively expect them to mature and their need for us to diminish.
And indeed, all my children are now at primary school, so I no longer have to spoon food into their mouths or help them up the stairs.
Yet often as leaders we forget that the staff under our care can also be expected to develop and mature. We should expect routine tasks that might require supervision on day one to be self managed at some point.
With our children we expect them to stumble and fall occasionally and we respond to encourage them and catch them. Many employees would benefit from a similarly benevolent approach to development.
Being a mum teaches us to allow our children to surprise us with their inventiveness and creativity as they embrace new skills and make them their own – and shows us the benefits of giving our staff enough space to do the same.
As the final word in a long and weary debate, have you ever used the phrase, “Because I’m your mother and I say so?” It’s something we probably all try to avoid, but do fall back on in desperation.
As a mother I am confident that I generally know what’s right for my children, what steps I need to take to keep them safe, what rules I want them to follow, and what the consequences will be for them if they step out of line.
I am often surprised by how often women will happily trust and rely on their instincts and judgement at home, but not at work. Many women find it hard to assert their authority or to direct colleagues.
But many of the same tricks that work at home are easily transferable: asking nicely, setting boundaries and clear expectations, explaining consequences and following through on punishments.
So don’t be afraid to pull rank at work when you need to, and have the final word just because. (I also find bribing people with chocolate often works as a last resort!)
Good luck in your leadership journey!
I wish you every success on your leadership journey – at home and at work. Like parenting, you’ll have good days and messy ones, triumphs and tears in the office (but hopefully fewer tantrums), but keep going. It’ll be worth it!
If you’re looking for further encouragement and inspiration, you’ll find useful reading recommendations on Clair’s website.Clair Fisher