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This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Often the best mentors come from the most unlikely places. There are strong parallels between what Grandma does, the priorities she lives by, and the skills necessary to be a great leader.

Here are 20 plays from Grandma's playbook; you can decide what they mean to you as a leader.


1. Is the matriarch. The family holds her accountable in the role; she didn't ask for the job. There is no training program; she learns on the run and is guided by road sense.

2. Is honest. She calls it as she sees it. She puts the needs of her tribe first. She doesn't have a political bone in her body but on occasion bends the truth to avoid hurting someone.

3. Loves unconditionally. She didn't learn to; it's innate. It comes from caring and nurturing others.

4. Protects her turf. Her instinct is to defend her family. Intruders beware. Mess with anyone in her den and look out.

5. Acts on her feelings. Precise logic takes a second seat. Being "right" isn't her prime objective; achieving a positive emotional outcome is.

6. Tends to the comfort of her family. She believes that to be happy one's basic needs must be taken care of first.

7. Steals kisses. Showing affection openly makes it OK for others to do the same. An emotional bond is the net that keeps her family together.

8. Spoils. She goes the extra and unexpected mile for everyone. She asks for a Christmas list with the intent of buying everything on it. Surprise and indulgence spell her mantra.

9. Never forgets. She remembers special events, achievements and family moments. She is always on the watch for something to celebrate and is a copious note-taker to make sure she doesn't forget.

10. Is playful and fun. She feels at ease releasing her inner child and isn't all that concerned about what others think. She loves to dance; music is therapeutic for her and others she touches.

11. Forgives, no matter what. She sees perfection as an illusion; people make mistakes and good intentions should be recognized. She is OK with letting stuff go. She has an uncanny ability to see the goodness in people.

12. Exercises her imagination and creativity. She loves art and encourages her "students" to colour outsides the lines.

13. Negotiates to get the best deal. The ultimate advocate, she wades into the parental realm to bargain for what her grandkids want but don't necessarily need.

14. Wrote the book on care giving. Ask (or even think about asking) for help and she is there. Family priorities are her priorities. She can be counted on for a daily call with "How can I help?"

15. Is a tenacious problem solver. She dives into any issue that upsets any family member and does not stop until a resolution has been found. Feelings are the criteria she uses to evaluate alternatives.

16. Is loyal. It really doesn't matter if she agrees with what one of her flock says or has done, she will defend them to the end.

17. Is happy with a zero return on her investment. She expects nothing to come her way. She gives. Period.

18. Tells family stories. Recalling family moments "paints the family picture" and its ancestry and that is what is cherished and valued.

19. Sees bad stuff coming. She's intuitive. She senses undesirable outcomes and acts on impulse quickly. Sometimes she's right; sometimes she's wrong. It doesn't matter.

20. Ad-libs to enhance the experience. She makes up lyrics to her bedtime songs. Disrupting the magic and flow of the moment is unthinkable to her.

Take a page from Grandma's Playbook and it will make you a better leader.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.