Leadership Skills I Learned from TV

I have a total #girlcrush on Olivia Pope (Scandal), Miranda Bailey (Grey’s Anatomy) & Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada). I don’t know if it’s their straight-talking, no-nonsense attitudes, their intelligence, or their fashion sense that grabs me.

Caliper’s whitepaper on women leaders makes more sense of my ‘je ne sais quoi‘ musings. They surveyed 85 women currently in senior leadership positions for this study. As individuals, they showed the highest scores in the following categories:

1. Assertiveness

Olivia Pope thinks fast & effectively, and speaks in short, sharp sentences. Miranda Bailey is infamously blunt, but we know she cares about her group of interns. Miranda Priestly is similarly sharp & succinct. They have a straightforward communication style.

2. Aggressiveness (let’s call this one assuredness)

Olivia is a fixer, leading a motley crew of educated staff to manage crises. She’s in it to win it. Miranda Bailey is straight-talking, but knows her stuff, and she wants to share her knowledge.

3. Ego-Strength

Being resilient to criticism or rejection. Olivia has the messiest private life, which makes it easier to relate to her, but she also holds her act together and gets on with business, challenging both the President and her father in turn. Miranda Bailey has a strong moral core; everything is seen through this lens. She’s a tough-love practitioner.

4. Stress Tolerance

Not worried about possible negative outcomes. All three women work in high-stress, competitive environments. They make quick, tough decisions with very little hand-wringing, although they are plagued by feelings of letting their families down.

5. Energy

Olivia has an intensity which infuses her team with purpose, Miranda Bailey started the free clinic at Seattle Grace because she wanted ‘something more’ & Miranda Priestly had had the infamous cerulean speech.

These three women are the embodiment of strong leaders: straightforward in their communication style, action-oriented, risk-takers, and skilled at solving complex problems. They’re not perfect, they make mistakes, but they inspire respect because they get the job done. The most common leadership style identified in the survey was Transformational Leadership, which means the leaders were intellectually stimulating, encouraging employees to take ownership of company goals, and providing inspirational motivation.

Which is why I’m going to keep watching Scandal & Grey’s Anatomy: I’m calling it continuing professional development.

To learn more about these traits, and how to develop them, try Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadShe draws on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses, giving women tools to help themselves, and possibly effect change on a more universal scale. 

Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life, is also a good read if you’re trying to figure out how to balance it all and if there’s something more.

Let loose here....

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