7 Leadership Lessons Tech CEOs Learned from Their Moms

To celebrate Mother’s Day, check out the lessons these tech leaders learned from their biggest inspirations: their moms.

7 Leadership Lessons Tech CEOs Learned from Their Moms
[Image: Flickr user Valerie Everett]

It’s no doubt that the indispensable lessons we’ve learned from our moms are inextricably woven into our daily lives. But for some of Silicon Valley’s top CEOs and founders, it’s also woven into their leadership styles and company cultures.


In honor of Mother’s Day, seven business leaders share the leadership lessons from how to create balance to how to manage a team that they learned from their moms.

1. Never Give Up

“My mom encouraged me to never accept ‘no’ as an answer to a problem. She taught me to keep asking questions, explore all options, voice my opinion, and never give up because a majority of problems can be solved this way. This advice not only shaped me into the leader that I am today, but is also a part of the Culture Statement at JiWire. It is the main reason why my team pushes so hard to break boundaries, innovate and improve on an idea that other people once thought couldn’t be done.”

– Michael Fordyce, CEO of JiWire, a mobile audience intelligence company

2. Honesty Is The Best Policy

“My mother always taught me to be honest with myself. She didn’t mean it in a way that would limit potential, but rather open my eyes to where I could grow. I’ve turned this idea into a guiding principle at Clarizen–awareness. My team and I have learned that we need to be aware of our strengths and, more importantly, our weaknesses. We need to understand the limits of our knowledge. It’s much more important to ask the right questions versus have all the answers.”

– Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO and founder of Clarizen, makers of an enterprise-class solution for work collaboration and project management

3. Balance is Essential

“Unlike most mothers, my mom often ends our calls with, ‘How is your sales quota?’ I’m a product-focused CEO and having a mother who at one point in her career managed more than 1,000 salespeople has taught me the importance of not only having a strong product team, but also a strong sales team. More importantly, you have to invest in the right people at the right time to create a company that can successfully build, market, and sell a product. In the end, it all comes back to the people you choose to invest in.”


– Stefan Groschupf, CEO and cofounder of Datameer, a self-service big data analytics solution for Hadoop

4. Celebrate Individuality

“The biggest thing my mom taught me is to understand that people are built differently and act in the ways they do for intrinsically good reasons. She’d hold up her hand and say, “Look at the five fingers on my hand. They’re all sized differently, each with unique strengths and abilities and that’s why they work so well together.” That simple visual depiction helped me understand at a very early age that the way to build lasting and successful organizations of people is to understand and embrace their unique differences.”

– Tawheed Kader, CEO and founder of ToutApp, the sales acceleration platform that helps teams close deals faster with the power of tracking, templates, and predictive analytics

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks

“The best piece of advice my mother shared with me was: ‘Live for the moment, and don’t put life on hold.’ She meant that in order to be successful in life, you sometimes need to take calculated risks by having the confidence to follow your instincts to make critical decisions that ultimately drive progression and results.”

– Jonathan Gale, CEO of NewVoiceMedia, a cloud contact center solutions provider

6. You are only as strong as the people you surround yourself with

“’I’ is for accepting responsibility when things go wrong–the buck stops with me. ‘We’ is for making commitments and signing up to new challenges–the team is never alone. ‘You’ is for distributing the glory that comes with success–the team that did the work gets the credit. My mom taught me this style of leadership and it has driven me through my career. To me, it means that you are never better than the team around you and gaining the trust, loyalty, and buy-in of your team is the key to any successful endeavor.”


– Doug Winter, CEO and cofounder of Seismic, a mobile content management platform for sales and marketing leaders

7. The Golden Rule

“My mother taught me to treat others as you would want to be treated. This lesson helped me shape our company’s core philosophy to build a deep sense of respect and responsibility toward our employees and our customers. This is especially important for a cloud platform vendor, because we can’t just write the software and ship it–our customers rely on us to keep their systems running, and we know the only way to earn their trust is by treating them with respect.”

– George Gallegos, CEO of Jitterbit, a provider of fast, agile integration cloud solutions for the modern enterprise

Kathleen Shanahan is the founder of BOCA Communications and comes from a long line of women, family-owned businesses. Beyond her passion for PR and her deep sense of commitment to clients and employees, she is also a mother herself with a 3-year old daughter and an 11-year-old Boston terrier named Zoe. They all reside in San Francisco with her husband.