Leadership Spotlight

Leadership Lessons from Mom

Stock image of a mother and her son.

Recently as I listened to my 22-year-old son prepare for his first “official” job interview after graduating from college, I remembered my own life at that age, which took a different trajectory. At 21 I got married, became a mother, and started my initial “real” job, all in a 6-month span. I did not have a college education or specific career goal, but simply focused on getting through each day.

While I watched my son rehearse interview questions, it dawned on me that my life’s path, while dissimilar to his, has given me valuable, sage advice for this young man standing before me.

Be confident, but also humble. Learn to show passion for your work without becoming overbearing or overeager. Never be something you are not. Always stay true to yourself. Others will seek to measure your sincerity, and if you are not true to yourself, people will see through it. Failure is OK because it always serves a purpose and leads to growth—if you allow it.

These messages resembled the same ones I have communicated to law enforcement leaders in FBI Academy classes. I was coaching my son much like I do my students.

The advice I wanted to impart included lessons every leader needs to know regardless of experience, rank, position, education, or age. I need to remember them myself. Outstanding leaders seek to understand where they came from, how they got here, and why that matters. They continue to want something better for the collective whole.

Much like my son, great leaders have a vision, goals, and a belief that they can conquer the world. They never lose touch with the passion of youth that drives them to take calculated risks and reach for goals that often seem unattainable. Such leaders have contagious excitement and energy. They tap into their vigor and enthusiasm to motivate up-and-comers to become effective future leaders. Watching my son, I realized that I learn more from him than he does from me. The coach is being coached. My “leadership lessons from mom” approach turned into me reconnecting and remembering lessons learned long ago. Thanks, son!

Beth Coleman, an instructor in the Executive Programs Instructional Unit, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.