To the best leadership coach, my mom!

As I thought about who has had the most profound impact on my life, the one and the only person that came to my mind, is Ammi, my mother. Without her presence in my life as a guide, I would surely not be who I am today! On this Mother’s day, I thought to share a few leadership lessons I derive from my mother.

Empathy & Compassion. I experienced firsthand what it feels like to have someone exhibit, not just an understanding of how I feel, but someone I could rely upon and get a sense of comfort in my darkest hours. Regardless of how hopeless life could seem, I could always know that I could confide in her, could never doubt her intentions, and know that she is the only one who would sacrifice herself to make my life better. As a leader, this has helped me in being attuned to the emotional needs of each member of my team and stakeholders and keeping my focus on their needs as we drive the change.

Continuous Learning. Ammi always instilled a love of learning in me. From early childhood when I would lay in her lap, I listened to countless stories that had profound age-old wisdom and examples of historical figures who focused their lives on learning. Her gentle reminders to read books encouraged me to be a life-long learner. I vividly remember the oft-recited verse from her:

‘Agar taaq may rakh di tum nay kitaab, to kya do gay kal imtihaan may jawaab?’

(If you kept your books decorated on the shelves, how will you learn and ready yourself for the exam of life’?)

This proverbial wisdom conveys the continuous learning mindset which is a bedrock of a great leader.

Patience & perseverance. Life threw us several curve balls during my childhood through adolescence and early adulthood. I always admired how patiently she persevered through those difficult times and exuded a sense of calm while she handled the challenges in a composed manner. Her optimistic demeanor always conveyed that the difficulties of today are temporary and the future is going to be bright. As a leader, I have to handle many pressures from various directions; these principles have helped me tremendously in navigating the rough waters in a calm and composed manner which helps my team stay focused and avoid distractions.

Integrity. She always stressed living a life with high moral standards and integrity. These included living a life on the principles of self-reliance, justice, ethics, and generosity. Time and again, she used examples of leaders with integrity as well as lived through difficult times where compromising her integrity and moral standards would have resulted in short-term benefits. She always took the higher ground and stayed focused on the longer term, avoiding short-term thinking. Instead of focusing on ‘getting even’, she was always generous in her forgiveness and encouraged us to do the same. As a leader, it is so important to recognize that all of us have imperfections and that being generous without compromising ethical and moral standards requires a level of maturity that sets apart great leaders from the rest of the pack. I wish to hone my leadership skills to be one.

Collaboration & Teamwork. I always found her to involve me and my brothers as a core part of her team. She collaborated with us to solve life’s problems. She focused on being equitable and never played favorites (even though I know I am her favorite son 😉 ). Her ability to work with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, and teachers and influence my father to make life better and solve problems, set an example of how, as a leader, I should foster a culture of collaborative teamwork to drive change.

Inspiring Vision. As I place myself thirty years back when I was still in high school, I could never have imagined myself to be in the position I am today. However, my mother always had a clear vision and inspired me to have the belief that I am destined for greatness since I was a child. This is a verse from one of her lullabies that still acts as a guide for me:

‘Mayra naam karay ga roshan, jug may mayra raj dulara’

(My beloved son will brighten the horizon with my name through his greatness)

It instilled the belief in me that through hard work, there is no doubt that I will achieve success in life. As a leader who is focused on driving innovation and change, it is vital to set an inspiring vision for the team that each member could believe in.

Lead by example. Ammi was not a woman of words, rather, her relentless focus on action through the thick and thin of circumstances taught me to focus on efforts rather than relying on others to make progress. I saw her waking up in the wee hours of the morning, preparing food for all of us before waking me and my three brothers up, getting the four of us ready in a small home (with one bathroom) in the morning, taking the school bus at 6 AM, coming back with us in the afternoon (she was a teacher in the same school), feeding us lunch, ensuring we do our homework before spending time in play, checking the work of her own students, and doing this day in day out for years, instilled in me the focus on having a disciplined work ethic and reliance on oneself with a positive outlook towards life is the only path to success. As a leader, I must walk the talk!

Ammi, thanks for shaping me into becoming who I am today! You are the only person on the face of this earth, whom I can never payback.

And to all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s day!

With gratitude, reverence, and admiration,

Mashhood

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