THE BLOG

Mums As Leaders

30/01/2015 12:27 GMT | Updated 31/03/2015 10:59 BST

In their article "Why should anyone be led by you?" Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones acknowledge that all leaders need vision, energy, authority and strategic direction. They also set out four unexpected qualities that inspirational leaders share:

i. They selectively show their weaknesses

ii. They rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions

iii. They manage with tough empathy

iv. The reveal their differences

A bad leader

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I have been reflecting on those unexpected qualities in the context of my own experiences as a mum. My twin sons are now eight years old. Overall I have found being a mum to be a wonderful and life affirming experience. I'm grateful for the amazing mums I've met and the dear friends I've made.

Then

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Now

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All women want to be a great mum. Maybe a perfect mum? I did. I think my mum friends did. I definitely wanted to do things The Right Way and not The Wrong Way. Who would argue with that?

I barely noticed the arrival of some gentle pressure shortly after I began to share my happy news. It was very subtle. The first Right Way related to the birth - a natural delivery with minimal interventions. Anything else was subtly portrayed as a missed opportunity at best or some kind of failure at worst. I decided I wanted to do it The Right Way and opted for a natural birth. When the time came the boys were delivered by emergency c-section. So much for that.

There has been some interesting research looking at birth experiences of first time mothers. As part of that research one new mum who delivered by emergency c-section reported 'When I went home, I continued to cry, I wanted to be alone. I did not consider myself as a good mother. I have been frustrated because in my view, I wanted so much to give birth naturally and then I should have been able to do it. To me, it is still a failure'.

After the birth, feeding. And the pressure about feeding begins in earnest. Of course we know that breastfeeding is The Right Way to feed. I fed using a mixture of breast and bottle. So I felt not guilty and guilty. If you don't or can't breastfeed you'll feel pretty bad about that.

If you have birthed The Wrong Way and you can't feed your baby yourself you might be starting to feel bad. Guilty perhaps. Things may feel totally out of control. Other women might inadvertently reinforce those negative feelings, perhaps by sharing their views on The Right Way, or feeling they can't be honest about their own experiences and pretending everything is amazing.

Then there is you as a couple. Some women may swear a lot at their OHs for being a major player in the creation of this whole situation in the first place. Parenthood can change the dynamics of your relationship. I don't think we find it easy to communicate about that. I enjoyed being at home for the best part of the year and then I felt ready to go back to work. More guilt!

In expressing a desire to be perfect, we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. An inability to be perfect mums and do everything The Right Way can lead us into a bad place. The perception that we are no longer in control can make us very anxious. With hindsight I think my expectations on myself were unrealistic. I later realised that being in control was just an illusion anyway.

An example of imperfect parenting

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We'll assume a new mum has demonstrated vision (I'd like us to have a baby!), energy (let's make a baby!), authority (it's the right time!) and strategic direction (this is what we need to do to implement our vision!) If we could utilise Rob and Gareths' unexpected leadership qualities might things be different - and better?

If we could selectively show our weaknesses, be a bit vulnerable, could we talk more honestly about how we are feeling? Dr Brené Brown describes vulnerability as "the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love". Yes to that.

If we could trust in our intuition, be a "sensor", detecting what's going on without others spelling it out, could we be better friends? Would we intuitively know when to ask friends if everything really is amazing?

If we could empathise with other women deeply and give them what they need, could we avoid reinforcing the idea that there is a Right Way (well done you for breastfeeding!...)

If we could dare to be different, could we acknowledge that the Right Way doesn't exist? Could we say - My Way is the Right Way for me? And could we be cheerleaders for our friends who say that?

Let's be honest with ourselves and each other. Let's be kind. Find the leader in yourself.

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