What Are The Deepest Roots of Your Leadership?

May 16 2017

By Kevin Cashman; Originally posted on Pause Point, Kevin’s Forbes.com blog on May 15, 2017. 

Many of our most fundamental leadership models originate deep in our life story. Reflecting on these influences can foster genuine and fundamental self-awareness.

Post-Mother’s Day, I wanted to share a story on the profound and practical patterns my mother instilled at “the red thing” in our home.

In the basement of our family home was something we called “the red thing.” The red thing was a brightly painted, high wooden bench that happened to be located directly across from where my mother would stand to do the ironing. All of us kids wanted time on the red thing, but it wasn’t really about the red thing at all.

What we sought was the sage advice and encouragement of our mother. Because she only allowed one of us at a time on the red thing, time there with her was highly coveted. Our mom was an amazing listener, coach, teacher and facilitator. Although we always wanted her to give us answers, which she did occasionally, more often she taught us how to reflect and build our own awareness by looking at different sides of an issue, situation, person or group. She helped us to think, to process, and to land on our own clarity. She appreciated each of our unique talents and accomplishments, but also challenged us to explore, excel or exceed. She was particularly challenging when we were certain that we knew something or when we were judgmental about people.

I was not aware at the time what she was doing. I was only aware of the benefits of it. I did not realize that she was modeling a process, a way to reflect on yourself and the challenges faced. She had this incredible natural ability to use questions to get us to look at something from different perspectives, to help us to better understand who we were, why we were going in a particular direction, and how to consider alternatives. She balanced encouragement with a push for excellence. She was intolerant of a lack of openness. She was a master coach. She ignited a passion in me to help people grow.

Heartfelt thanks to you, Mim Cashman, your “maternal leadership” was a living example of how to integrate both the maternal and paternal into one way of being and leading. What are the deepest roots of your leadership?

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