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Cultivating Inclusion: Leadership Lessons from Mom

Effective and inclusive leaders should be catalysts for bringing out the best in their employees. Unfortunately, many lose sight of this. This International Women’s Day, I reflect on three key lessons from my mom – a farmer – whose wisdom always guides me:

  • Foster growth through listening.  Mom always compared nurturing people to caring for saplings; you can’t force growth but must create the right conditions for it. Instead of telling employees how to do their jobs, ask them how you can do help them do their jobs better. This approach, simple yet profound, can unlock tremendous potential.
  • Encourage low-risk spaces for innovation.  Leaders can enhance their teams and organizations by creating safe spaces for risk-taking and innovation, emphasizing resilience and grit. “A little dirt ain’t gonna kill ya,” my mom would say, often followed by “Dust your knees off and keep on walking.” Stand behind your employees when they take responsible risks, and remind them that failure is no flaw if you learn from it.
  • Practise humility.  Treating everyone with equality and respect was second nature to my mother. Leaders who exhibit humility, respect, and a willingness to serve their employees while advancing the organization can achieve remarkable outcomes.

My mother passed away earlier this year. She lived a life of inclusion, even if she never used that word —because it was so innate to her. In doing so, she enabled success for me and many others without even realizing it. Her legacy is a powerful reminder that true leadership isn’t about pointing the way, or even about opening doors for others; it’s about helping people find their own paths, so that they can walk through those doorways themselves.

Michelle Eaton

Vice President of Public Affairs at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Michelle is Vice President of Public Affairs at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce where she has led an exceptional expansion of the organization’s impact and reach throughout the province. She was also involved in developing and implementing strategic and risk management plans that led to material growth in organizational revenues over her tenure.

Over her career, Michelle has worked in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, helping to shape communications and public affairs strategies within key roles at organizations such as Rothmans, Benson and Hedges Inc., Manulife, and the federal government.

Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Political Science and French from Western University and an Executive MBA from Ivey Business School.


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