Leadership in the Living Room

mom1955Leaders are not born, they are developed. Some leaders are born in a home that nurtures their development. Others are forged by experiencing the worst while dreaming of the best. They make a conscious decision to chart a new course.

I’m fortunate. I have parents who modeled well and also made me learn things for myself… the hard way. I often say that leadership begins at home. Success in the boardroom needs to be accompanied by leadership in the living room. A healthy family is critically important.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to introduce you to the remarkable woman who is my mother and my friend.

My Mom was a steel magnolia long before the popular movie acquainted the masses with the term that describes a southern woman who is strong and independent yet very feminine. In fact, she comes from a long line of steel magnolias that weave a colorful history.

This woman whom others call Bettye but has always been “Mom” to me is of the generation that wore white gloves and pillbox hats. Her influence surpassed that of Jackie Kennedy Onasis, especially in our house.

After all, she taught me everything I needed to know for success in life before I was 12. It just took me the next 20 years to realize she’s right about almost everything.

Proper grammar was and still is emphasized and enforced when you’re around my mom. She earned a master’s degree in library science and enthusiastically shares her passion for books and for the written and spoken word. To hear her read aloud is like listening to music as she gives eloquent expression in a soft southern accent.

She instilled in me a value for the truly important things in life; faith and family. Laughter is as essential to her as breathing and she keeps the bar high for generosity of spirit. She fills her days and her handwritten notes with exclamation points!

I have countless images stored in my memory of meaningful moments of a lifetime with her…

I see her reading greeting cards in the aisle of the store with her twin sister and laughing so hard they gasped for air as tears rolled down their faces.

Fun and playful; I love that about my Mom.

I see her trekking across Europe pushing Dad in a wheel chair, fulfilling his life-long dream to go to Austria, though his days were numbered. Alongside her, I pushed a stroller with my 6 week old infant. We formed quite an entourage while we made every moment count.

Adventurous and bold; I love that about my Mom.

I see her preparing for my wedding reception in her own backyard with only 2 months notice. Every detail attended to, the party was fabulous; from the lovely heirloom silver candelabras set lovingly on my great grandmother’s wedding tablecloth to the sumptuous buffet.

Charming and gracious; I love that about my Mom.

I see her pulling the shirt she was wearing off over her head and handing it to me because I had admired it. (We were alone in the house!)

Generous and spontaneous; I love that about my Mom.

I see her driving to an unsettled and unsafe area of town to teach at a segregated school because of her love for children and her desire to help in the transition to integrated schools.

Pioneering and strong; I love that about my Mom.

I see her spending months at a time in my grandmother’s teeny-tiny hometown so LouLou could have as much time as possible in her own home before she had to leave it behind as old age claimed her freedom.

Thoughtful and patient; I love that about my Mom.

She has filled 85 years with love, laughter and beauty. Here’s a short list of 25 things I’ve learned from her. Naturally, the list could exceed 85 points and it continues to grow every day.  As she approaches her 86th birthday, I will add “you are never too old to set new goals and dream new dreams.”

Leadership in the Living Room – 25 Lessons from Mom

1. Keep your priorities right. Faith, family and friends are first.

2. Beauty is often hidden. Train yourself to find it.

3. Good grammar and good grooming are ways anyone can improve themselves.

4. Don’t write something down if you would be ashamed for someone to read it.

5. Children are carriers of joy and hope. Spend time with them and you will be a carrier too.

6. Family is one of the greatest gifts of life. Make the effort to spend time together.

7. Travel is one way you can spend money and get richer.

8. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

9. Be generous. Giving is one of life’s greatest joys.

10. Though you often don’t understand God’s ways, you can always trust Him.

11. Music is the language of both heart and soul. Fill your days with music.

12. There’s a song in your heart. Sing it.

13. Act like a lady. There is never a place for rude, crude or uncouth behavior.

14. You’re stronger than you think.

15. The possibilities are endless.

16. Don’t just do what you can. Do what it takes.

17. Education is a lifetime endeavor. Never stop learning.

18. Make lists and have a plan.

19. Have a back-up plan.

20. Books will take you anywhere you want to go. Read everything.

21. Remember the stories of those who have gone before us. Preserve your rich heritage.

22. Voting is one of the greatest privileges of our democratic society. Even if you must vote for the lesser of 2 evils, go to the polls.

23. You don’t have to agree to get along.

24. Be gracious to everyone.

25. Love. Even when it hurts.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers everywhere. Life wouldn’t be ours without you.
Then and now…

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