Mother Leads Best

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Mother Leads Best

by Moe Grzelakowski

Dearborn Trade © 2005, 231 pages, $22.00 (ISBN 0-7931-9518-7).

Fifty Women Who Are Changing the Way Leadership Is Defined

As mothers are moving into the executive suite faster than ever before, they bring with them a new and distinct style of leadership. To document this emerging leadership trend, high-tech industry executive Moe Grzelakowski has interviewed 50 highly effective leaders who are also mothers and has turned their stories and ideas into a guidebook for using the skills of motherhood to transform good leaders into great ones. Mother Leads Best focuses on the impact that raising children has on a leader’s values, and how the empathy and compassion of motherhood can impact an organization in positive ways.

In her exploration of what mothers can teach others, Grzelakowski turns the lessons she has learned from each of her subjects into thoughtful insights about strength of character, confidence in the line of fire, and efficiency when it counts for a leader. After highlighting the adaptability, patience and other traits of the women she profiles, the author offers suggestions and exercises that can help readers assess and develop similar leadership traits.

The result of her journey into the maternal leader’s mind is a treatise on the value of motherhood in the executive realm and how all businesspeople can learn from the many roles motherhood demands. Grzelakowski also offers 50 women to whom working mothers can look as role models who have blazed the trail into working motherhood before them.

‘Dragon Lady’

The first chapters of Mother Leads Best dig into the organizational context in which working mothers are becoming powerful leaders at work and at home. This is where Grzelakowski confronts the sharp-tongued, amoral “dragon lady” stereotype and other pejorative terms used to describe female bosses.

With numerous stories from business experts and working mothers, she presents the tips and tactics that have made working mothers like herself even more effective and better leaders. These include getting a life, letting go of perfectionism, having more understanding of other people’s time, and other lessons that often emerge from the eye-opening world of motherhood. She also explores the way being a mother can help female executives gain perspective on themselves and their careers, and provides many inspirational anecdotes from women who have made the choice to add children to their busy lives.

The next part of Mother Leads Best is made up of six chapters that correspond to the various phases of the journey into motherhood: pregnancy, babies, the toddler years, elementary school, ‘tweens and teenagers. Each of these chapters offers numerous helpful suggestions about managing time and the traits that are required at each step of the way.

When Grzelakowski describes how pregnancy affects the careers of upwardly mobile women, she offers this comment from Donna Lee, the CMO at BellSouth, who describes the mixed reactions she received when people at her work realized she was pregnant: “After the initial shock, they viewed me as much more approachable. Being pregnant softened my edge. It gave people a richer view of me — opened up avenues. They saw the human side.”

The Toddler Years

When Grzelakowski delves into the leadership lessons mothers learn when their children are in their toddler years, she explains that, as a mother, you prioritize and re-prioritize every moment based on your goals at that time, controlling chaos in a way that is meaningful rather than arbitrary. She points out that Lori Craven, the COO at Tekelec, feels much the same way.

Craven explains, “I changed routines. At home, it was more important to go to the park than to cook from scratch or straighten up the house. At work, I shortened the long conversations with people popping in my office after hours. I became a lot more efficient with my time.”

Priscilla Lu of InterWAVE says that having young children and working with a nanny also affected her schedule in a positive way, allowing her to let go of the many minute details of her job that used up her time, and trust other members of her team to take care of them. “I was able to do this because my children put everything I was doing into perspective. They stabilized my priorities,” Lu comments. ~

Why We Like ThIs Book

Grzelakowski’s inspiration and passion for motherhood and its positive effects on the lives of powerful working women are apparent on every page of Mother Leads Best. Her personal connection to the subject and her investigative approach to exploring the effects of motherhood on leadership provide important observations and lessons from which all organizations can learn. ~

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