Mother, Minister, Manager: The 3Ms of Leading People Successfully

As a former pastor, I feel tempted to call these 3Ms of leading people, “The Holy Trinity of Leading People Successfully”. But maybe, I’ll call it the “Wholly Trinity” because when leading people it is best to see us as whole people and that is what the 3Ms encourage us to do.

I must acknowledge that I didn’t come up with the 3Ms myself. But, I have been consciously putting it into practice for a dozen years and was unknowingly evolving toward them prior to being told this information by a VP of HR I was trying to recruit for a high level position for a corporate leadership academy back in the 2008-9 time frame. In fact, his statement was one of the many little nudges that pushed me closer to seminary in the first place. Unfortunately, I don’t recall his name or I would give him full credit for the influence he had on me in just one conversation and likely on many others if he lived into what he professed to me.

“How would you describe your leadership philosophy?”

That was the question I asked the VPHR that I will now refer to as ” The Wise One” (TWO), to which he immediately replied, “Any leader and especially an HR Leader has to be part mother, part minister, and part manager.” I was instantly fascinated. Of course, the manager part made sense. But, I didn’t expect to hear the minister part from a person seeking a role in a large corporation. Nor did I ever anticipate hearing a man say that he was part mother. But as soon as I heard the three together, it intuitively made sense. Something about it felt right. When I asked him to elaborate on the minister and mother parts, he basically explained that the minister component was one of empowerment–to see in people what they may not readily see in themselves and then help them to realize their untapped potential. And the mother part referred to nurturing people in their development and protecting them as they make the mistakes that are a natural part of the growth process.

When I submitted his pre-screening to the organization I was recruiting for, I expected that I would get another chance to talk to him and hear more about his leadership philosophy. I couldn’t see how a hiring manager could see his answers and not want to hear more. Unfortunately, the hiring team was less impressed than I was and I only had the chance to let him know that they were “moving in a different direction”. I told him that I might reach out to him in the future to learn more about his philosophy. But, I never got the chance. However, I clearly never stopped thinking about it and have done my best to employ it whenever I get the chance. Below, I will go into a little more depth on the 3M as they’ve evolved in my consciousness and I would love to hear in the comments section whether you can relate to these ideas.

  1. The Mother of All Leaders – If you think about it, in most cases, mothers are the first leaders any of us ever know. In our entire lives, there will be few people to whom we’ll ever have to surrender in our most vulnerable state as we had to do with a mother figure. And in due season, we will have to be surrendered by our mother figure in order for us to grow into greater potential. So it makes perfect sense that an in tune leader, such as TWO seemed to be, would identify the mothering capacity as a key leadership trait. After all, to be an effective leader, you must be one worthy of surrender as well as one who knows when to surrender. And in the middle, you must have the aim of nurturing those who surrender to your leadership. Looking back on those you’ve been led by in the past, can you see where they held this dimension of mothering? As a leader, can you see the value in this trait?
  2. Minister is a Verb – When used as a verb, the word minister simply means to attend to the needs of… It could be analogous to the idea of serving. If you’re familiar with the work of Robert Greenleaf or have read many other leadership books in the past decade, then you’re probably familiar with the term Servant Leadership. Well, that is the essence of the idea that effective leaders are part minister. And before you get stuck on the notion that the word minister sounds too religious, remember that in many nations across the globe, when they hear the word minister, they don’t think of someone in a pulpit, they think of someone who serves their nation at the highest levels. So as a leader trusted with leading at the highest level, perhaps thinking of your role as being a “ministry” may serve you in serving others.
  3. Take the Manipulation out of Management – Of course, every organization has things that need to get done–deliverables. Whether your organization offers products or services, there are certain outcomes that you are expected to make good on. And because the outcomes are the easiest things to measure (whether it’s in people or pieces), many people out front (the perceived leaders), will see their job as managing outcomes rather than leading to people to deliver on their promises that they’ve made to one another and the other stakeholders. The danger with managing outcomes is that it often leads to manipulation of some kind. Either people are treated like things that need to be moved here and there by any means necessary to get the outcome or corners are cut so that the product or service can get out the door. But when this happens, you might hit your numbers target but miss the mark on what ultimately counts.

‘Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted’

Attributed to Albert Einstein

Lead from Wherever You Are

Finally, I believe that TWO would agree with me that you don’t have to be out front to be a leader. Anyone at any level of an organization or community, whether paid or volunteer, a creator or a customer, can employ the 3Ms at their level of engagement. In his book, The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization, author John C. Maxwell teaches that anyone can learn to lead from where they are suggesting that “only 360-degree leaders influence people at every level of the organization, and by helping others, they help themselves.” This is what the 3Ms are about–the Wholly Trinity of Leading People Successfully.

We are at a juncture on our planet when we need more humans to own our latent capacities and unlock our potential in the service of others. One of the ways that I have articulated it is building the capacity to hold joy in one hand and grief in the other. Because if you can do these things you are on the path to growth that leads to human flourishing. This is the path that I am on. And I hope that what I contribute to these conversations serves you wherever you are.

About Pedro S. Silva II

I am a globally minded leader with extensive experience and depth in a variety of sectors. Throughout my career in military, corporate, and ministerial spaces, as well in my volunteer work, I have developed the relational acumen to inspire people, create compelling narrative, and articulate vision in ways that both challenge and comfort as required. I thrive and best serve with organizations that are imaginative, inclusive, vision centered, and welcome relational accountability. As of February, 2022, I am serving as a Director of Engagement with YOUnify.

YOUnify is a nonprofit project. Our mission is twofold. We work to (1) reduce polarization and cultural divisions of all kinds in service of (2) accelerating progress on solutions to the key challenges of our time.

We take a cross-sector approach, uniting people from business, philanthropy, impact investing, non-profits, government, the interfaith/inter-belief community, the arts and entertainment community, media and journalism, the grassroots and more.

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