My Mother’s Legacy: Lessons for Leading from Behind in Mediation




This year’s newsletter is a series of “Life Lessons”, in tribute to my late mother. They are lessons that have served me well as I apply them to mediation.  

Nelson Mandela equated a great leader with a shepherd:  “He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

This week, at the conclusion of a long mediation, and litigation that had spanned more than 5 years, the Plaintiff, in his 50’s, said to me:  “That’s what my mother would have told me to do, G-d rest her soul”.  He was an example of being lead from behind.  His instincts told him that settling this longstanding dispute was the right thing to do.

As my family progresses through this first year of holidays, one of my cousins remarked that she thinks of my mother as “a strong force behind our family–physically gone, but leaving her spirit of love and life as a road map.” What a legacy!

In her blog series, Linda A. Hill, Professor at Harvard Business School, talks about how the psychological contract between companies and employees is changing and that now people are looking for more meaning and purpose in their lives. They seek to be valued for their creative contribution to the organization’s purpose.  

In mediation, as in the shepherd’s work, this requires some gentle nudging and prodding if the flock begins to stray off course or into danger, but it also means, as Professor Hill notes, “harnessing people’s collective genius”, in part by recognizing the common purpose, values and rules of engagement about problem-solving.

Mom knew that, too.  She excelled in the part about gentle nudging and prodding to ensure that her flock valued one another, celebrated life together and instinctively knew the road map that she had laid out for us long before we undertook the journey.

P.S.:  A reminder that you may still register for the SCMA Annual Conference on October 20-21, 2017 at the new LA Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles here: . I will be presenting on “Transformative Moments in Commercial Mediation:  Techniques for Success”.  

P.P.S.:  If you are still reading, I will be in Oakland to participate in CELA’s Annual Conference on October 20, 2017.  Come say “hello” if you are there.  I’ll be hanging out at the ADR Services booth.

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