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Three Leadership Lessons I Learned as a New Mom

· 4 min read
Yiyang Hibner

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Author: Parul Goel

As a product leader with two decades of experience, I have led several large teams, and helped resolve numerous tricky situations. So when I became a first-time mom last year, I felt ready for this new role. I was wrong. My baby has been the most challenging stakeholder I have encountered - demanding, temperamental and with an overload of cuteness that makes being rational impossible. Taking care of her has stretched me in ways I didn’t think would be possible. Here are the top three leadership lessons I have learned by taking care of her, and I will apply them to my job as well now that I am back.

Read the cues and take proactive actions

My daughter gave me plenty of hunger cues before she would start crying. The times I was successful at reading them, we created insta-worthy moments together. However, if I missed them, I had to deal with a frantic baby howling at the top of her lungs. Her heart piercing cries fueled my panic to a point where I needed to be swaddled and rocked!

At work as well, there are usually cues that signal trouble before the situation escalates, for example, a casual remark revealing brewing tension between two team members. As a leader, learning to catch and blow out these little fires will save you time. You can turn your attention to those high value, strategic tasks that usually lose out to such urgent firefighting.

Take the time to listen

As a new mom, anxiety has been my constant companion. Is she being fed enough? Is she too cold? Is that rash on her neck “normal”? During this time, an excellent team of healthcare workers came to my rescue. However, some were more successful in reassuring me and helping me learn how to take care of my baby than others. Even though my worries were run of the mill for them, something they had probably heard about countless times, they still let me empty my glass of anxiety by letting me talk about my experience. While others cut me off to get into solutions for the sake of efficiency. At times, it made me feel like they were rushing through the appointment, like my worries were not important enough for their time.

At work, when we are part of an emotionally charged conversation, it might be tempting to jump in to share our solutions. Let’s cut to the chase and talk about what needs to be done. But do resist that temptation and instead create the space for others to tell their story. They will hear you better once they feel heard. If you haven’t already, check out Matt Mochary’s great guide on how to make someone feel heard.

Grow and evolve constantly

Just as I would think I was getting the hang of parenting, my baby would change the game. Any strategies I devised to put her to sleep at night were only effective for a night or two. I had to update my repertoire of parenting tools on a daily basis. It was exhausting, but it made me a more confident parent. This experience also helped me grow as a person by making me more tolerant to change and unpredictability.

To be able to succeed in different conditions, cultures and contexts, we also need to constantly expand our leadership skills. Deb Liu, the CEO of, has used new year resolutions to build new skills and habits. The best leaders are constantly learning. So go ahead and put in the work to develop new skills. It will make you a more confident and well rounded leader.

Both motherhood and leadership skills need hands-on experience. So try out these leadership lessons and share your experience with me in the comments!