There have been several moments in my life where I have been presented with leadership opportunities, and on many occasions I consciously chose not to grab the role with both hands. Fear of failure, fear of criticism, and fear of the unknown, you name it; all these held me back from fully exploring my potential – until something changed…
It’s important to first set the scene: having started my career in PR in the early 2000s, I quickly established myself as a credible professional and rapidly rose up the ranks to manager level for a global PR agency. From the outside, things probably looked like they were going well, but that didn’t stop me from quitting in 2010. I was not confident about managing a team, and I was managed in a clichéd way. Being brutally critical was praised over being empathetic and constructive, and I felt like I was turning into someone I was not. Toughness, assertiveness, and self-interest were – and still are – considered as a corporate benchmark of behaviour. I was uncomfortable and could not see how to align my values to my role. I quit. I changed role and company, and eventually left PR.
I had a new plan in life, I moved from Paris to London, settled down with my partner, and became a mother of one…two…three kids! Whilst this transition has been extremely challenging, I’ve personally found motherhood to be the most valuable teacher and builder of leadership within me.
Stepping into the unknown and letting go of fear
Parenthood is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging experiences that anyone can go through.
As a parent, I realised that understanding where my strengths were, my limitations and having self-belief would have a positive impact on my children and my family. The desire and ability to accept responsibility, self-awareness, vulnerability, and intentionality are all critical traits that apply to both parenting and leadership and led me to better understand how I wanted to show up at home and at work.
1. Develop self-awareness and self-reflection
One of the most important lessons that parenthood taught me about leadership is the importance of self-awareness. Raising children requires you to confront your own apprehension and fears. Heightened self-awareness allowed me to recognize my own biases, emotions, and triggers and allowed me to manage them in a constructive way.
Furthermore, self-awareness allowed me to be more empathetic and understanding towards others. By recognizing my own flaws and insecurities, I feel better equipped to recognize them in others and to respond with empathy and compassion. This has been crucial for building stronger relationships and creating a culture of trust and collaboration.
2. Take the pressure off and be vulnerable
One of the first things that hit me as a new mum was that parenthood is an endless and humbling journey. It often throws us into situations that are new and unfamiliar and requires us to adapt and learn quickly. I rapidly realised that I would not get things right, but each challenge would be an opportunity to try things out, evaluate, and learn from them.
This required a not-so-insignificant mindset shift: allowing myself to be vulnerable and accepting that I wouldn’t always get things right allowed me to own my authority, be accountable, and to also trust myself more. Willingness to embrace change and uncertainty has been liberating. Now, when faced with new challenges or areas of leadership where I don’t feel sure or I question my decision-making, I embrace that as part of the process. I’m constantly working to build resilience and see times when things are hard or don’t go to plan as opportunities for growth and evolution.
3. Be intentional
Above anything else, to be an impactful leader – whether in parenting or in any other context – intent is a crucial element. Once I started to define a clear vision about the type of parent and leader I wanted to be, aligned with my core values and my sense of purpose, I started to lead more effectively and authentically.
By bringing consciousness to the way I interact with my children and with others, I’ve only experienced a more positive impact and feel I’ve set a strong example to my children to be themselves.
Being aware, being present and being authentic
Being attentive and responsive to the needs of others and to the changing dynamics of a situation is essential for building stronger relationships and ultimately becoming an effective leader. Supporting my family with huge doses of empathy is always on top of my mind, and it takes practice, patience, and persistence. And of course, the same is true in the workplace or any other arena.
Despite working in a fast-paced environment and constantly seeking to get the balance right across all dimensions of my life, my purpose is to create positive and meaningful relationships with those around me and at the end of each day, I always ask myself: Did I inspire someone today?
Connect with Shamina Peerboccus on LinkedIn.
Shamina was awarded a place on The Xec. leadership scheme for UK-based Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethnic Minority PR and comms pros. She is being mentored by Anisha Vikram Shah, Senior Consulting Director at Blurred.