In the age of red carpets and action figures, there are plenty of notable women we’re told to look up to as style icons, but what about BOSS ICONS? Women characters who not only break the mold of the one-dimensional women so often written by men, but women we aspire to emulate in the ways we negotiate conflict, manage staff, and mentor future generations.
Here’s a look at some formidable women who’ve graced our televisions over the last decade, and what we can learn from their triumphs, challenges, and (in some cases) outright mistakes.
Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
No job is beneath you. It’s important to own your power and expertise, but there’s also something to be said for staying humble. Even as a leader in her city, Leslie Knope makes her own copies, assembles her own binders, and spends a day as a sanitation worker to show women can do anything. We all have tasks we don’t like to do, but leaders worth following aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work themselves. Be the right amount of positive. We attract the energy we put out in the universe, furthermore we affect the energy and headspace of the people around us. Whether it be employees, clients, or peers, it’s easy to forget that no matter how much we think we internalize our stress, it’s still floats in our orbit. No one has to be Mary Sunshine 100% of the time, but being aware of your energy goes a long way. Listen to the people you mentor as much as you talk to them. No matter how many decades of experience you have, there’s always more to learn. Not only should you listen to your mentees to keep them on the right path, but fresh eyes and ideas are valuable! Even when those ideas are coming from someone with less experience, listen.
Olivia Pope, Scandal Olivia Pope was a Lawyer, Campaign Manager, White House Communications Director, and eventually an entrepreneur as head of Olivia Pope and Associates. Her terrible choices in relationships aside, there’s a lot more to unpack about her leadership style than her hankering for red wine and outstanding wardrobe color palettes. Take care of your people. It doesn’t get simpler than that. Take care of your people and they’ll take care of you. Olivia Pope assembled a team with a wide variety of skills and attributes, but one thing they all have in common, is that they have each other’s backs. The occasional squabble is bound to happen, but your team is always #1. It’s okay to admit defeat. Even Gladiators fail sometimes, but our failures don’t define us. Our response to it, however, speaks volumes. After every stumble, Olivia Pope stood back up every time.
Sansa Stark, Game of Thrones
She may have begun her journey as the bratty daughter of a noble, but she grew up to become a force to be reckoned with. Know the details. I doubt Sansa Stark ever had to make her own armor, but as the Lady of Winterfell, she wasn’t afraid to tell the Blacksmith her army’s breastplates must be covered in leather to protect her men from the cold. Even if she wasn’t doing it herself, she knew the details, and was able to speak to them with confidence and accuracy. Choosing allies is all about strategy. When selecting employees, contractors, mentors, and confidantes, it can be easy to stick to the people we’ve known forever or the people we simply love as human beings, but to be successful, you must be far shrewder when choosing your inner circle. Your best friend may be amazing, but it doesn’t mean her work style jives with yours. Just because your uncle is an graphic designer, it doesn’t guarantee he’s the best person to bring your vision to life. I may never forgive Sansa for what happened to Lady in season 1, but there was always a solid strategy behind who she chose to follow, align with, and (occasionally) destroy.
Rebecca Welton, Ted Lasso
The woman owner of a premier league football club in Richmond, Rebecca had some big inner battles to deal with in the first season of the Emmy-winning show, Ted Lasso. Know when you’re wrong and own it. We all hate being wrong and admitting it can feel like a failure. But not only does owning your mistakes mold you as a businesswoman and as a leader, it’s often, simply put, the right thing to do. Being honest and embracing our faults is a big step forward for personal development, and sometimes it's more appreciated by the people around us than insisting we're always right. Let people in. You want to do it all. You want to forge your path, build your business from the ground up, and break glass ceilings. I get it. YOU CAN DO IT! And heck, maybe you can even do it alone. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. There’s power in numbers and success tastes best when it’s shared with those who root for you.
Peggy Carter, Agent Carter
Whenever we think something is impossible, let’s remember at least we’re not a woman secret agent in the 1950s, because that was a tough gig. But Peggy Carter reigned supreme and taught us much more than how to use a stapler as a weapon, or the power of matching your lipstick to a signature accessory. Ask for help, or at the very least accept it when offered. Agent Carter had access to the original VA (aka: Jarvis) decades before the rest of us and always accepted any help he or Howard Stark could throw her way. Whether your help comes from a VA or a real live human, the important thing to know is that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. Don’t let the naysayers bring you down. The world is full of people who won’t have faith in us and who will say that what we’re attempting is impossible. Don’t listen to them. No one who ever broke a glass ceiling took the word of someone who claimed it was bullet proof, they grabbed a sledgehammer.