Thoughts on Leadership: A Tribute to Mothers

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting off Monday with my typical Monday WIG calls. After the calls, I participated in the exciting virtual announcement that RealPro Real Estate Professionals joined ReeceNichols. On Tuesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Weekly Executive Team Meeting and then jumped right into the T3 Summit where we explored the “new normal” of the residential real estate industry and the transformation changes it continues to bring. Wednesday marked the first of two days for our HomeServices of America “At Home with Diversity Course,” and between informative sessions, I also had seven CEO Q1 reviews. Tomorrow, we’ll complete the second day of diversity training, exploring new ways to bring even greater diversity, equity and inclusion to our organization and all the clients we serve throughout the world.

I never really include my weekend schedule in Thoughts on Leadership blog posts but today, I’d like to make an exception. On Sunday, I’ll celebrate one of the most important leaders in my life: my mom. I’m one of three and I grew up extremely close to my mom. We’re still close to this day. Every Sunday, I take my mom and dad on a “three hour tour,” where we drive around and spend time together. When I travel, I check in with my mom as I arrive at the airport, so she knows I’m about to get on a plane. She’s always the first phone call I make when I land.

Where would we be without mothers? Nowhere. We wouldn’t even exist. Ahead of Mother’s Day, I’m dedicating my Thoughts on Leadership post to the mothers of HomeServices of America, and to all the mothers reading this. You are the examples we will forever follow and the support system we need. Your love is what motivates us to do better and be better humans. Mothers are everything.

Here are some thoughts on leadership and motherhood from presidents and CEOs throughout HomeServices of America who lead teams of hundreds (if not thousands) while also leading—and inspiring—their families every day.

Parenting is the ultimate form of leadership: it’s knowing when to lead from the front, lead from the side, and lead from behind. And hoping you get it right more times than you get it wrong.

Diane Glass

CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago

Being a mother means putting your children first in any situation. It means being confident, supportive and positive. I believe a strong leader will do the same with their people.  Recognizing your children and your team for their successes and understanding and forgiving their failures enables them to grow and mature without the fear of loss. A strong leader and mother are authentic, trusting, respectful and consistent, able to instill accountability and an understanding of responsibility to their children and people for their own actions and the resulting consequences. The one thing the best mothers and leaders have in common is that they lead by example, always doing the right thing knowing it may not be the most comfortable or convenient.

Candace Adams

President and CEO at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England, New York and Westchester Properties

Mothers and leaders help others discover and emphasize their strengths. I knew that this was important as a leader, but it’s equally important as a mother. It’s easy to tell someone what you perceive their strengths to be, but self-discovery is so much more fulfilling and confidence-building. A strong leader and mother is able to help guide others on this path.

Christy Budnick

President and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty

Motherhood, like leadership, requires patient observation of the strengths and weaknesses of those we mother or lead. It requires creative problem-solving; carefully considering what is in the very best interest of the family unit. What allows for maximum personal growth and development? It means asking the right questions with curiosity to reveal the real issues, so that any judgements or consequences are aligned with truth and fairness. Like motherhood, effective leadership requires a clear vision; and it seeks the highest and best outcome for all involved.

Desrie van Putten

President, Guarantee Real Estate

My mothering style and leadership style are actually pretty similar. Listen a lot. Honor what the other person has to say as their perspective. Then use your experience to provide guidance in the moment, mindful of what the goals are or should be for a productive outcome.

Motherhood IS leadership. Or at least an opportunity to be a leader. Whether you’re running a company or spending 20+ years raising a child, you have to show up and be all in, invested in being the best role model you can be.

Top leaders and the best mothers are tireless in their pursuit of growing their people, or children, into the best manifestations of who they can be in the world. Everyone has a best self, and women are great at nurturing that.

Gretchen Rosenberg

President and CEO, Kentwood Real Estate

The best leaders are those people you want to follow and emulate, not because you have to, but because you want to. You believe they have your best interest at heart and you want their influence as an integral part of your life. Being a mom is the greatest gift! Exercising creativity, care, and selflessness on behalf of someone who sees you at your best and worst is the truest application of leadership in action.

Jenni Bonura

President and CEO, Harry Norman, REALTORS®

As a mother you raise your children with love and care so they can go on to become happy, self-sufficient and independent adults. As a leader you impart your knowledge, experience and expertise to those that work for you so that they will grow, thrive and be able to make good business decisions independent of you.

Joan Docktor

President, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®

In my mind, being a mom means providing unconditional love. We are our child’s biggest champion, tireless defender and role model of resiliency. As mothers, we understand how incredible kids are in this world and hold them dear in our hearts.

These attributes carry over into leadership as we understand the value and many contributions of our team members, champion the mission and values of the organization for the benefit of all and preserve through the thick and thin to help each member achieve their highest potential. As leaders, we are building a “family” for success.

Kim Bakey

CEO, HomeServices of Iowa

I’ve always tried to lead by example both in my personal and professional life. By doing so, you create a picture of what’s possible. I never really realized the impact it made on my step-daughter until she gave me a Mother’s Day card several years ago and wrote about what an inspiring role model, I’ve been to her.

Liz Nunan

President/CEO, Houlihan Lawrence

Motherhood has taught me patience, and to be fully present. It has taught me to listen completely to the issue at hand before trying to defend or solve the problem – two ears, one mouth, use accordingly!

Because my children are almost as old as my professional life (28 years):  I have found that for me, my motherhood and leadership roles have been beautifully symbiotic.  The discipline required in leading a department or an organization, I have applied to “motherhood,” like providing boundaries and expectations and teamwork as a family; everyone is expected to treat each other with respect and to do their part. Motherhood has taught me the discipline of patience, understanding and approaching decisions with a tender heart … essential requirements of “motherhood.” 

Whether a woman is the CEO of her company, or of her household, she can make tough decisions with an open heart.

Martha Mosier

President, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties

Through care, concern and high expectations; I am just as honored and humbled to be a company leader as I am a mom, and neither are a walk in the park!

Women leaders work tirelessly to find their voice and be heard. Mothers are the first to encourage their children to have a voice and use it wisely.

One thing mothers and leaders have in common is the ability to be both! Being the very best, strong, authentic, accountable, ethical, honest, driven, compassionate and fun-loving human being in ANY role! Truly good people develop truly good people!

Mary Lee Blaylock

Senior Vice President, HomeServices of America

Chairperson, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties

I think that leading a real estate office and leading children to a successful adult life is a lot alike. You have to use all the tools at your disposal. Number one is you have to demonstrate what you expect from people by being that person yourself. If you want honesty, ethics and responsible people whether they’re your children or salespeople, you have to demonstrate those qualities yourself. And then hold those people and your children accountable to those standards.

Peggy Lovejoy

President, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices North Properties

One thing that the best mothers and leaders have in common is the talent of listening. As mothers, we always want to give our children the solution when the best thing to do (and also the hardest thing to do) is to just listen and provide support. Usually in the end, the child will get to the best solution on their own by just talking through it and having an open ear to listen, and then they learn something about what they can accomplish as a result instead of being told what to do. The same thing is true for leaders. Being a good listener and asking questions gives the team member the opportunity to find the solution themselves and again, learning what they can accomplish. Listening is leading.

Reneé Gonzales

CEO, Long Companies

Being a mother and a leader gives a broader, bigger perspective on both roles, and they really merge together. You’re asking a lot of questions to get to where things need to go. Mothers and leaders need to lead by example, without question. Motherhood and leadership require patience and taking a pause before I want to react. The best leaders and mothers can multitask and take on a lot of priorities at the same time. I like to think of it as mind triage, I have to take the highest level priorities, the biggest fires first and keep going. It’s a privilege to work at this company and be able to work full-time and also work in my other full-time job, which is being a mom.

Sharry Schmid

President, Edina Realty