Moe Grzelakowski believes mothers should not only be in the workplace but should also lead it. According to Mother Leads Best: 50 Women Who Are Changing the Way Organizations Define Leadership, leaders need the characteristics women develop in their roles as mothers. Interviewing female executives from companies such as IBM, Xerox and VISA, Grzelakowski a mother of two and former top executive delineates the leadership skills learned at each stage of motherhood, from pregnancy through raising teenagers. For example, Grzelakowski claims that mothers of new babies learn the traits of empathy, sensitivity, compassion, warmth and patience. She quotes Maria Martinez, a Microsoft vice president, as saying: “[my daughter] ushered me into a lifestyle that triggers my compassionate and nurturing side more regularly. She brought me a whole new dimension to my life, which created a whole new balance to the way I work.” While arguing that mothers, through nature and nurture, are more likely to have these skills than men or unmarried women, she stresses that all can improve their leadership abilities. Two lessons seem especially important. First, workaholism subtracts from leadership ability. “Real leaders have real lives,” as Grzelakowski puts it. Second, some of the most important feedback comes from loved ones: a child’s criticism can strike deeper and effect more change than any negative evaluation at work.
Grzelakowski asserts that people with the best human relations skills will be the best leaders. While there are certainly those among the childless and/or male segments of the population who meet that criteria, it’s hard to deny that raising children provides constant training in those areas. Faye Jones is Dean of Learning Resources at Nashville State Technical Community College. Her doctoral dissertation was on Victorian working women.