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Good leaders: Where is your path leading you?

Pahoua Yang Hoffman delighted the Good Leadership Breakfast guests with tales of how her mother inspires her leadership today.

We’re all on a pathway to somewhere. It involves the journey of where we came from, where we are standing right now, and the vision of where our aspirations are taking us. Last Friday at the Good Leadership Breakfast, Pahoua Yang Hoffman painted a poetic picture which inspired guests to make a difference where we stand, right now.

Journalists (me included) like to hype the story that has branded Pahoua: her family immigrated from Laos under hardship, landing in America, aided in part by a good Samaritan who adopted their family. She thrived in school, was the first in her family to go to college and finish graduate school. But, that’s not what left the biggest impression.

The Goodness of Self-Doubt

In a rare photo of her refugee experience, Pahoua is pictured here as a baby, held by her mother (far left.)

It was the impact Pahoua’s mother had on her journey that penetrated me the most. So much so, that Pahoua started her talk with this: “I stand here in front of you as an imposter…well not exactly, but I stand here with self-doubt. I get it from my mother…so, I could title this talk, The Goodness of Doubt.” She then shared a vision of a courageous woman who labeled herself as “stupid” before her children, because she didn’t know how to help them grow up in America.

Pahoua learned that self-doubt and used it as fuel for her growth. In elementary school she translated English for her parents to help them learn how to navigate the new world. And she never stopped thinking about the needs of her mother. You can listen to the podcast from her speech here.

The Influence of Mom

Many times over the past 8 years, I’ve shared this famous phrase, originally written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Men are what their mothers made them.”  Obviously, the gender doesn’t work – although I’m certain Pahoua agrees with this translation: “Leaders are what their mothers made them.”

Pahoua is photographed here with me, and one of our sponsors, Gene Sieve, from Burns & McDonnell.

Today, as the Executive Director of the Citizens League, she is leading the charge to research the down-to-earth issues of Minnesotans, and amplify those discussions to policy makers. “My work today still honors the wants and needs of people like my mother,” she reflected after the breakfast. “We are encouraging people to have the discussions about what do our mother’s need to live a productive life now? How do they want to receive care as they age? And how do they want to live the end of their life with dignity, in the presence of community?”  Pahoua’s vision is to involve all of us in helping make these decisions, that will also affect how we age together.

More than $4000 was given to Children’s Cancer Research Fund by Megan Morrey (center) from contributions into the Bucket of Goodwill.

Good leaders celebrate the influential people along their journey. And they honor those people by being good leaders today, who shape a strong vision for how we all will thrive together in the future.

Please share with me: Where is your path leading you?

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