The humble lesson my mother taught me about tobacco, humility and leadership

Image courtesy  Sai De Silva

Image courtesy Sai De Silva

I was raised by a single mother. She was the epitome of kindness and grace. She was also judge and executioner when I let her down. I tried to do this as little as possible.

One time seeking to elevate myself from one to many self-assessments as an under achieving 7th grader I decided to smoke following the example of my peers. My only real friends at the time were books. I sorely wanted to be accepted.

On the way home crossing the school campus I had wrapped a strip of a paper bag torn earlier that morning. My mother’s friends in those days came to visit with a cigarette. Sometime, certainly without my mother’s knowledge I would add dry milk to the wrapper hoping to smoke it. I failed having burned my lip in lighting the “cigarette.”

This time walking across the campus I had added very small bits of tobacco found in the ash trays from home. Determined to be seen smoking I lifted the cigarette to my lips. My sister Sherry, a year younger and the brain trust of this little family saw me.

I was aghast. She said she would tell mom. She rushed home to do so. Fast.

When I arrived home mother whose life was emblazoned with virtue sat me down. She did not raise her voice. She did not reprimand me.

She said, “You let me down.” Then she got up and left the room.

Her words reverberated with me over the course of my life. I never smoked again. I did not wish to bring shame to her. For me smoking and hurting my mother were thresholds.

My mother saw in me great potential.

That is leadership.

She wanted me to love virtue. To be a man who worked more on the inside than being seen.

She patiently and lovingly let me choose my own way and move at my own pace.

You may have felt the power of such efficacious leadership where you live and work.

Whatever your experiences in families and in the presence of humble leadership you know unity is strong when it is bound together in unselfish love.

You know how precious and fragile that bond is in this challenging world where we are purposefully here to learn to be better.

We must be authentic humble leaders at home and at work.

Our duties are priceless gifts to make each of us and all we encounter better. We are agents to act and not acted upon. No one should have to prod us into being a consistent example of execution and virtue.

We can exercise patience, personal obedience to virtues and principles that we teach our children and often forget when no one’s looking.

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And what if you found that these absurd outcomes were more the rule than the exception, that they were representative of most health practitioners, most law enforcement officers, and most educators? You'd be more than confused. You'd be infuriated. You'd foment that something hadn’t been done sooner. Right?

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  3. Changes the rules in the middle of a project.

  4. Creates unclear expectations regarding employee's performance and results.

  5. Creates a bureaucracy of forms and reports and unnecessary rules for individuals to follow.

  6. Over manages (tells what to do, how to do, and controls) vs. leading and does not allow autonomy.

  7. Withholds information that individuals need to perform their jobs, lying, and claiming it’s a misunderstanding.

  8. Takes time from people by having them attend unproductive meetings.

  9. Emphasizes criticism and negative feedback vs. recognition and positive feedback.

  10. Tolerates poor performance of others so that high performing people feel taken advantage of.

  11. Treats people unfairly and show favoritism to a select few.

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