A mantra for leadership

Picture of Anne-Marie Slaughter at her TED talk

Watching Anne-Marie Slaughter’s TEDGlobal 2013 talk Can we all “have it all”?, I was impressed with her mantra on leading people with families:

As a leader and as a manager, I have always acted on the mantra, if family comes first, work does not come second — life comes together. If you work for me, and you have a family issue, I expect you to attend to it, and I am confident, and my confidence has always been borne out, that the work will get done, and done better. Workers who have a reason to get home to care for their children or their family members are more focused, more efficient, more results-focused. And breadwinners who are also caregivers have a much wider range of experiences and contacts. Think about a lawyer who spends part of his time at school events for his kids talking to other parents. He’s much more likely to bring in new clients for his firm than a lawyer who never leaves his office. And caregiving itself develops patience — a lot of patience — and empathy, creativity, resilience, adaptability. Those are all attributes that are ever more important in a high-speed, horizontal, networked global economy.

Thank you, Dr. Slaughter, for sharing your mantra. I like it.

I bet many of you have experienced the benefits of having parents in the workplace. The business brought in from parenting connections? The efficiency applied to the job? The patience, empathy, or resilience demonstrated when the going got tough? Please share your story in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.


© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

But I want to have it all!

It’s been six months since The Atlantic published Anne-Marie Slaughter’s thought-provoking article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. When I read it last summer, I was in the midst of planning my new blog about the intersection of leadership and parenting. At the time, I thought (and hoped) I would be able to build an audience for the blog. Once I read Dr. Slaughter’s article, I felt inspired, if not compelled, to start writing it; the blog became something I had to do. Let me explain…

Dr. Slaughter’s overall message is that we need better choices if we want to see working mothers make it to the tops of their careers. While these choices include things like part-time roles, flexible schedules, and school hours that better match work hours, we also need to make it more acceptable for working parents to acknowledge that their kids’ needs often come before the demands of work.

As a dean at Princeton University, Dr. Slaughter wanted to help change the environment to be more family friendly; she did this by deliberately talking about her children and her desire to lead a balanced life. She would end meetings at 6pm, announcing that she had to go home for dinner. She would tell people where she was going when she had a conflict such as a parent-teacher conference. She refused to make excuses for putting her family’s needs first.

As I read her article, I wondered if I could help, in a small way, by encouraging working parents to share stories about how their parenting experience makes them better leaders, and vice versa. To have it be acceptable to talk about strategies for delegation, communication, inspiring a vision, and other leadership qualities through the lens of parenting. To be able to reinforce the managerial style of the office by talking about how effective the same approach is at home. To make it okay to blend our personal and professional lives.

Because of Dr. Slaughter’s article, I knew I had to start my blog. But, my blog alone isn’t enough. What are your ideas for addressing Dr. Slaughter’s article? I’d like to hear from you.


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.