It was February of 2014 when Ms. Carole Young walked into my life. She didn’t have a choice about meeting me. Her daughter introduced us. I remember I was nervous, but she quickly put me at ease. Ms. Young was just an ordinary person – the mother of my future spouse. Or so I thought.
I don’t remember much about those beginning few months, but I can tell you after spending five years of my life with her, Ms. Young is far from ordinary. She is a Queen – the epitome of a true leader.
As business owners, leadership is single-handedly the most important skill we can develop. If you think about it, we must lead ourselves, lead our business, lead our clients, and often lead our team. The degree to which we apply leadership skills can often determine how successful we are as business owners.
As I write this article, my heart is broken. Ms. Young, or as I affectionately call her, “Mommie,” passed away yesterday, January 14th at 11:39 AM. Throughout the time I’ve known her, I have witnessed a woman’s extraordinary life. Her leadership skills made a huge impact on everyone around her. There is a lot we can learn from a Queen who blessed this Earth for 83 years.
Please allow me to share what I’ve learned from her about being a phenomenal leader:
The Queen Lived her Purpose with Passion
Many people struggle to find their purpose in life. And because of this, they wander through life searching for a passion that can only be experienced through purposeful servantship. Mommie found her purpose. She was a college counselor at San Jose City College for over 40 years. After raising her young children, she went back to school to get her bachelor’s, and then her master’s degree in school counseling. There were people in her life that helped her achieve that goal, and The Queen turned around and gave back what she received.
Countless students share stories of how Ms. Young poured her heart and soul into them, helping them to reach higher goals than they could imagine for themselves. Two of these students (whom Mommie considered her children), almost 20 years later, were at her bedside the day of her passing. I witnessed an extraordinary love from these individuals for the leader they cherished. They shared stories of the impact she had made. They spent the night so she didn’t have to be alone. They held her hand and took care of her as they would their own mother.
Being a college counselor wasn’t a job for Mommie. It was her life, her purpose. She retired at the tender age of 80 years old, and only because she was too tired to keep going. Leadership requires us to live with purpose and passion. People are attracted to and follow these ideals because it’s often so rare to find.
The Queen Made You Feel Like a Million Bucks
“Hi Sugar, how you doing baby?” This is how she talked to me, and almost everyone else she encountered. The Queen treated people with love and respect. It didn’t matter if it was the President of the United States or the janitor at school. Everyone received the same treatment.
But I think what made you feel like you were so special is she gave her undivided attention to you when you were around. The Queen was genuinely interested in your life. She would ask question after question, giving you the impression that your life mattered. And the truth is, your life was important to her.
Every human being wants to feel loved, respected, and cared for. We all deserve to be treated with kindness. And great leaders love people. They celebrate each individual’s unique contribution and personality. They invest in each person professionally and personally. Mommie took a special interest in everyone. Her memorial service will be packed with all the people she has touched through her years.
The Queen Had Fierce Strength and Resiliency
In 2009, Mommie was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was given a 15% chance of survival. That meant nothing to the Queen! She had a will to live, business to take care of. She was cured and survived. And then three years ago, as a result of her former chemotherapy treatment, she developed MDS. That didn’t stop her either. She drove herself to chemotherapy to battle this condition. Not because she didn’t have anyone, but because she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mommie was a spitfire – full of life, energy, and strength. Nothing broke her. Nothing stopped her from living her life. Even when health problems tried to knock her down, she just got back up. She made friends at the hospital and the infusion clinic. Everyone knew Ms. Young. The Queen just kept moving, living, and loving.
As leaders, events, and people will threaten to knock you down. You might feel like giving up, but strong leaders bounce back and keep going. They have an inner strength that enables them to move through tough situations with grace and flexibility. I watched my spouse through the last few weeks of her mother’s life. The strength, level-headedness, and resiliency she displayed during this difficult time was a true testament to the leader who raised her.
The Queen was Authentic to the Core
When you listen to the stories everyone shares about Ms. Young, you quickly learn everyone knows the same person. Mommie was 100% who she was, no excuses or permission from anyone. She didn’t wear a mask that camouflaged her true self. You knew exactly what you were getting with Mommie – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
There wasn’t anything particularly bad or ugly about Mommie – just some annoying habits that we all love to poke fun at. But these habits are part of the woman we all know and love. Mommie didn’t try to change who she was, nor did she apologize to anyone who didn’t like her. But I can honestly say, I never met one person that didn’t love her.
Aren’t we all attracted to people we can trust to be real with us? Even if we don’t like everything about someone, isn’t it more comforting to know who a person is – inside and out? Authentic leadership breeds trust, closeness, and often an unwavering commitment to follow. There is nothing more refreshing than true authenticity. Ms. Young was known for being who she was, saying what she wanted, and telling you how she felt. And people respected her for that.
The Queen Left a Legacy
In the article “The Benefits of Creating a Leadership Legacy”, an important question is presented:
“If a leader walks out of the office each night, each year, and at the end of a brilliant career has compiled a record of heroic success, yet leaves no long-term impact on others, did leadership occur?
As the question implies, legacy is a crucial component of leadership. A leader’s legacy is established by leaving something of enduring quality behind for the organization and its people. Effective leadership occurs when the leader strengthens others’ capacity to learn, to reflect, and to extract meaning from their learning.”
The Queen left a legacy, whether she tried to or not. By being the phenomenal leader and matriarch of her family, she made an impact on the world. She will not be forgotten by anyone who knew her. On the day of her passing, a church friend dropped off a poem that summarized her contribution.
C = Caring Person
A = Authentic Christian
R = Righteous Individual
O = Outstanding Counselor
L = Loving Mother
E = Enthusiastic Worker
Maya Angelou says, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
When you make an impact through your legacy, people remember how you made them feel. Mommie’s granddaughter beautifully recaps the legacy The Queen left on her:
The Queen was strong, dignified, classy, loving, authentic, and loyal to humanity. She is everything that exemplifies true leadership. I will love her to the day I die. I will miss all our special times together. I will laugh at all the stories that circulate around the family. But most of all, I am changed because of the time I spent with Mommie. My hope is that I take what I learned from her about being an amazing leader – for my family and friends, my business, my team, and my life.
Rest in Peace, my Sweet Mommie.
Lori Young is the founder and chief OBM at Amazing OBM. She uses her own personal leadership skills to help coaches and therapists manage and grow their businesses. Her mission is to give business owners back their time so they can focus on what truly matters to them – transforming the world.
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