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Sunday, May 14, 2017 1:00 am

Recalling Mom's quiet, servant leadership

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Quiet strength.

Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy used those words to title one of his books. The words also come to mind when I think about my mother, the late Elease W. Green.

She was mostly introvert, while my dad – a former teacher and pastor who is also deceased – was the definite extrovert.

I inherited the introvert genes. But, like my mom, I also have found myself with various leadership responsibilities over the years.

My mom and dad raised my sister, brother and me primarily in central Illinois although she was a Chicago native and he was from Virginia. My mom's leadership roles included being a Head Start teacher, PTA council president, and on the boards of the Danville (Illinois) Thrift and the Center for Children's Services. She was inducted into the Missionary Hall of Fame by the Wood River Baptist District Association Women's Auxiliary, and was active in other organizations and ministry auxiliaries. She was a church musician for 25 years, often teaching songs, directing and playing for the various choirs, including the children's choir. She did quite a bit of secretarial work, including for the Illiana Christian Association.

Honesty, integrity and dedication were among the leadership traits my mom possessed. She was compassionate but also discerning, particularly when it came to people making excuses. One of the things I most recall her saying is that “People usually find a way to do what they really want to do.” I've found that to be personally true and generally pretty accurate.

My mom had wisdom. She was an only child – the exact opposite of my dad, who had 10 siblings. I recall my mom saying “Learn how to be by yourself.” I didn't like to hear it when I was young, but over the years, I learned the value. It means you're less likely to compromise your character just to fit in, for fear of being by yourself. That's a leadership test – doing what's right, even if it's not popular.

My mom was also calm under pressure. Even when her health declined, some of those closest to her did not know what she was dealing with for months because she kept going, kept showing up – playing the piano, for example, every Sunday at church until she couldn't. Servant leadership.

Last year for Father's Day, I reflected on the leadership I observed in my father. This year, it seemed appropriate for Mother's Day to share what I saw in my mom. I started to feel a bit sentimental last week when I began seeing “Mom & Me” photos several friends began posting on Facebook. My mom, between her humility and introvert tendencies, probably would not have been fond of this selfie era many of us enjoy. She often shied away from cameras, so I have very few photos of her.

I also don't have all of the quiet strengths she had. I confessed the same when I wrote about my dad's strengths last June. But I like the idea of trying to walk in my mom's shoes.

A few years ago, I shared in a Facebook post with a photo and comment that I kept a pair of red pumps my mom had when she died in 2001. I've worn them a couple of times on Mother's Day. The post prompted several memorable comments about my mom. One was from a former neighbor and baby sitter who attended the same church we did.

“I loved how she built confidence in us through music and our little speeches at church,” the post said. “You are walking in real good shoes!!!” 

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at