We're Better Together: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on Leadership

It’s okay if we’re a little bossy. We’re better for it.

I am bossy. You could say that I’m a bossypants.

I stand tall at 5 foot 1, and you can hear my deep Alabama drawl from across the room.

I tend to take over meetings, and I never hesitate to offer my “insight” on a project.

At the age of five, I was categorized as a “chatterbox with an attitude,” and my mother assumed I would always pursue a law degree because I loved to argue.

My leadership style has certainly evolved over time, and I like to believe that while I’ve retained my strong personality, I have become more open to the ideas of service and collaboration as I have transitioned into my first professional position. I always believed that an exemplary leader did march around and wave her arms to remind her colleagues that she does, in fact, hold a position of power. I viewed leadership as a position of authority, as an ultimate career goal to work toward. My leadership story is a lot like Tina Fey’s, in that we have both revisited our definitions of leadership to incorporate others.

But leadership has nearly nothing to do with authority, and that’s what I love about the leadership lessons from Bossypants and Yes, Please. Good leadership goes well beyond a position of power; instead, it involves a great deal of collaboration, listening, and service.

I’ve started to reflect on servant-leadership and relational leadership with my students, and both of these theories are reflected beautifully in Bossypants and Yes, Please. In these approaches, the responsibility of the leader is not to wave her arms around and remind the group that she’s the boss. Instead, an effective leader takes the time to listen to each member of the group, incorporate their ideas into the task at hand, and find ways for all of the group members to exercise leadership. Amy Poehler reminds us that our colleagues have a way of inspiring us and challenging our assumptions, and taking the time to listen to their insight makes us better.

“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

I remember the first time I submitted an article for publication. I drafted a 1,200 word paper that explored women in leadership, and I thought it was pretty damn good. There was a reason why my abstract was chosen, I thought.

I was going to submit it to the editors as soon as I was finished, but instead, I dropped a copy of the article off to my mentor’s office.

She shredded the article. There was no white space left on the pages. It was all red.

We met and discussed the article later that week, spending two hours combing through each line of text. My first draft was good, but once my mentor challenged my writing and provided her insight to the piece, the final draft was great. I couldn’t believe that it was something I produced; it was better than anything I could have come up with solely on my own.

The point is, leadership is a series of collaborative efforts. We can be good if we lead alone, but we can be great, even exceptional, when we incorporate the unique strengths and perspectives of our peers.

And, it’s okay if we’re a little bossy. We’re better for it.

sticking points

on leading by example

“Watching great people do what you love is a good way to start learning how to do it yourself.” ― Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Good leaders model the way and lead by example. How can we learn from our colleagues?

If you’re just starting out: If you can, find a mentor. If you can’t, observe the women that you admire in your office. How can you follow their lead, and incorporate aspects of their leadership style to your own work?

on collaboration

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypants

“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypants

I’ve mentioned that good leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. How can you invite other people to the table, and take advantage of their unique perspectives and skill sets?

If you’re just starting out: Figure out how to talk to as many other people as possible. Get to know them and what makes them great. This will serve you well when you’re given responsibility to lead a project.

on “diving in” to leadership

“Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that's what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself” ― Amy Poehler, Yes Please

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypants

Leadership is not about the fancy title and the perceived power that comes with it. Leadership is about doing. Dive on in!

If you’re just starting out: Find ways to expand your skill set and break out of your comfort zone. Leadership is about doing, no matter how small the task or impact might seem. Start small!

For more girl power, wit, and wisdom, visit Amy Poehler's Smart Girls at the Party

Feature photo via Yahoo! Beauty.