Yesterday when I was chatting with my daughter she was filling me on a term paper she was writing for one of her leadership classes. The assignment was to examine and discuss the leadership characteristics and strengths of two minor characters from the movie Apollo 13. She chose Marilyn Lovell, the wife of Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) and (my favorite character in the movie) Ken Mattingly, played by Gary Sinise. When my family toured Universal Studios years ago we got to see some of the movie props and the blue sky/ocean background that was used in the final scene of the movie where the capsule safely splashes down in the ocean.
It seems like everywhere I turn lately, the topic of what constitutes good leadership comes up. I am currently signed up for a one day "Women and Leadership" symposium in July. My supervisor and I regularly discuss what steps we can take to become better leaders at work. My daughter is graduating from college this spring with a degree in "human services leadership" and will begin her master's studies this fall in "transnational human services leadership". She was also just inducted into her college chapter of the National Society for Leadership and Success, and it seems that colleges as well as workplaces are recognizing that good leaders don't just "happen" but need encouragement and opportunities for growth along the way.
What makes a good leader? With Mother's Day this Sunday, I think aspiring leaders could take a few hints from some of the wonderful mothers I know---the best mothers lead their families by example. They communicate effectively, build consensus, show empathy and compassion and expect respect, and create a family "team" where every member feels important, where accomplishments are celebrated and creativity is encouraged. And if you need a few pointers, I guess you could also look to my coffee cups, picked up on our two trips to NASA in Florida over the past few years!