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How mothers inspire business leaders and entrepreneurs

Mothers throughout history have positively inspired and impacted some of the world’s most influential business leaders through their support and encouragement. 

Ultimately, motherhood means leadership, and as individuals, this guidance provides us with fundamental tools for life, which we bring into the business.

Renowned businesswoman Arianna Huffington is known for naming her mother as the single most influential person in her life – and she’s not alone. Bill Gates has credited his mother for his substantial philanthropic efforts after Microsoft took off. 

Likewise, Facebook COO and author Sheryl Sandberg in her novel Lean In attributes her mother for raising her to believe she could do anything men could and that all career paths were open to her. 

While there is some way to go before work-family policies provide equality for parents, business leaders who’ve adopted positive learnings from their mothers are paving the way for progression. 

Building resilience for leadership through motherhood 

Research suggests that parenthood impacts our relationship with perfectionism and our communication skills and ability to handle stress, qualities that directly translate to leadership and business. However, becoming a parent also brings qualities such as strength and resilience transferable to other areas of life.

Catherine Blackford, Director of Bindle, said her biggest learning in running a business and being a parent lowered her expectations and being kinder to herself. 

“When you don’t have any children, the business is like your first baby, and all your energy, time and headspace goes into that. It’s not humanly possible to maintain that same level of detail and energy when you bring a child into the world. However, I still often have to reset these expectations,” she said. 

Likewise, Caitlin Zotti Senior Director of Operations at Checkout.com, said facing parenthood has shown her the importance of demonstrating to other young women it’s possible to have a successful career and a family. 

“I feel passionate about providing an example to young women in business to prove that you don’t have to give up your ambitions to become a mother. With my first child on the way, I’d been worried for years about when to take a break from work. Suddenly, my husband and I realised that there’s never a perfect time, and that’s ok,” said Caitlin.  

“Raising a child broadens your perspective and helps you become a better leader with a greater understanding of the flexibility required for parents,” said Caitlin. 

Catherine Blackford agreed that many ways to ensure motherhood and leadership exist harmoniously. 

“Delegation is a big one; I’ve taken on quite a few new people in the last few years to help develop focused roles and scale growth. This is important because I’m expecting my third child this year, but this will be the first time I’ve ever had maternity leave,” explained Catherine. 

“For my first child, I only had four days off in the hospital and then worked straight away because I couldn’t step away from the business. At the time, I was on the treadmill, and I didn’t even think about it, but it wasn’t good for my mental health. I learnt a lot about running a business and what’s important,” said Catherine. 

Similarly, Canadian-Australian author Robin Martin said raising children brought a stronger sense of compassion and resilience to her work as an author and entrepreneur. 

“My business as a writer revolves around understanding the human condition, and that’s something I’ve gained an immense understanding from being a parent. I’ve worked with young people from diverse backgrounds for a long time, including some who’ve had challenging experiences as migrants and refugees. As a mother, I can truly empathise with experiences on a level I couldn’t before, and I can bring that understanding to certain situations,” said Robin.

“However, I like to think I’ve passed on qualities to my adult children that they can use as individuals and leaders to better this world,” said Robin. 

How Mothers influence leaders and their approach to business  

Mothers contribute an invaluable amount to our lives whilst often balancing the demands of work and family. A study released by McCrindle reveals mothers don’t just raise children but inspire who they become in the world. 

The survey shows over 52 per cent of Australians say their mother is the single biggest influence in their lives, and 79 per cent put mum in the top three most influential. So, how much of their wisdom and learnings do we take on as leaders? 

Julian Vivoli, entrepreneur and business owner of Vivoli Consulting Engineers and startup Infoflow, shared that his mother played a fundamental role in his approach to business.

“My work ethic comes from my mother, a business owner herself. After giving birth to me, she was in the hospital for a week and immediately returned to work. However, our culture also played into my view on leadership,” said Julian. 

“Being from an Italian and Middle Eastern family, hard work was instilled into me from a very young age. My mother worked tirelessly to provide every opportunity I was given, inspiring an entrepreneurial spirit in me, encouraging me to aim high,” explained Julian.

“I grew up in the family business; I worked in the family business and was exposed to business for my entire life. As a business owner now, I try to treat my employees as though they’re family,” said Julian. 

Yasinta Widjojo, Senior Marketing Manager at Pin Payments, also credited her mother for not pressuring her to fit into any ‘box’ but to be whoever she wanted in business.  

“When I came to Australia from Indonesia at 9, I knew just three words of English, which was a hard transition. My mother built relationships in Australia very easily, as she was empathetic and kind, and those are qualities I greatly respect and have used in managerial and leadership roles, instead of simply following a corporate set of rules,” said Yasinta.   

“As my parents owned a family business, they worked as a team to provide me with tools and guidance about avoiding micro-managing and encouraging others, which I still use today,” explained Yasinta. 

Regardless of culture, background or profession, mothers’ influence on our identity as individuals and business leaders is undeniable.

As the progression continues to be made surrounding parenting and business, lessons from motherhood and mothers themselves provide inspiration for greater approaches this Mother’s Day.

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Ruth Thomas

Ruth Thomas

Ruth Thomas is the founder of ChangeMakers Media, a media and communications agency which aims to make a positive difference in business and charity. Ruth has over 10 years experience working across Australia and the United Kingdom as a media professional. With skills across film and tv to journalism and content production, Ruth has assisted brands like The Australian Greens, Network Ten and the Ovarian Cancer Council, to name a few.

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