Leadership Lessons We Can All Learn from Leslie Knope

Posted by Lindsay Dubbeldee on 2/13/19 8:00 AM
Lindsay Dubbeldee
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A special Galentine's Day post


It’s the day before Valentines day, and you know what that means:

Today is Galentine’s Day! And while it isn’t exactly a national holiday (yet), you know what? “It should be,” acLeslie Knope Headshotcording to Leslie Knope (and a growing number of people around the world).

If you’ve never celebrated Galentine’s Day – or never even heard of Leslie Knope – don’t worry, I can explain.

Leslie Knope was the fictional Deputy Park Director in NBC’s long running sitcom, Parks and Recreation. A super smart, slightly kooky “yellow haired female who likes waffles and news,” Leslie famously, often comically, loved her coworkers and friends with a fierceness, creativity, and unconditional loyalty that should inspire us all. Leslie always wanted everyone in her orbit to succeed, find happiness, and make the world a better place. And, of course, she gave us Galentine’s Day, the fictional, February 13th holiday.

While Leslie Knope is fictional, her lessons in leadership are real

So this February 13th, why don’t we all take a few minutes to celebrate? Here are a few of my favorite Leslie Knope quotes to help you launch your own Galentine's Day. Warning: these quotes are highly satirical.  But beneath their silliness, lie some timeless truths of great leaders. 

1. Find your place among your heros

“I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.” (Season 5, Episode 3)

There are thirteen framed portraits on Leslie’s office wall. She calls it her “Wall of Inspirational Women.” Twelve of these women are historical figures, including Bella Abzug, Condoleeza Rice, and Sally Ride. The thirteenth frame holds a picture of Leslie, herself. Egos aside, it is important to remember those who came before you, and let them continue to inspire you to do your best work. If you had a wall of inspirational leaders, who would be included?


2. Commit to your convictions

“I have the most valuable currency in America: a blind, stubborn belief that I’m 100% right.” (Season 7, Episode 1)

This of course is a tong-in-cheek line, delivered in a way that only Amy Poehler could. In real life, this attitude can cause real problems in the workplace, but let's take a closer look. The character Leslie Knope is capable of changing her mind. But she’s never willing to compromise on her principals. She stands by her values and doesn't give up on the goals of her team. 

Each company has a mission, and each team plays an important role in contributing to that mission. Chances are, you lead a team of smart, capable people who joined because they believe in the mission of your company. When that's the case, being a strong leader means supporting your team, trusting their expertise, and taking responsibility for steering your team in what you believe is the right direction.


3. Be open to feedback, even when it’s hard to hear

“What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring really loudly at me.” (Season 1, Episode 1)

The higher you climb up the career ladder, the more you need to surround yourself with people who are willing to tell you the unvarnished truth. Meetings can get stressful, and feedback can be tough to receive. When tensions get high, it could simply mean that everyone cares about the team goal. Know when to take a breath, walk away, and come back with a fresh perspective. Do your best to appreciate when you're working with a team of colleagues who care.


4. Ask for the support you need

“I need you to text me every 30 seconds that everything is going to be OK.” (Season 4, Eplisode 9)

 I agree, receiving a text every 30 seconds is excessive, but the message here is to remember to know when to ask for help.  One of the beautiful things about Leslie Knope is that she’s not afraid to show her vulnerability.  When she could use a supportive shoulder or a reassuring voice, she never hesitates to ask for it.  She knows that asking for help doesn’t make her weak. It makes her self aware.  And strong. 


5. Remember to take care of yourself

“Hey, Leslie. It’s Leslie. Hang in there. I love you. Bye.” (Season 2, Episode 22)

When you’re busy balancing everything else, it’s tempting to let your own needs slide to the bottom of the priority pile.  But it’s exactly at those moments when we need to take the best care of ourselves. Does that sound self-indulgent?  It is.  In the good way.  In order to lead your team with a clear head, you've got to recognize the signs that you're reaching your limit. So stop skipping lunch. Head down to the gym. Get your sleep.  Connect with your friends.  And never stop reminding yourself of your worth and lovability. 


6. Make boring things fun

"Organizing my agenda. Wait, that doesn't sound fun... jammin' on my planner!" (Season 3, Episode 10)

Let's face it, each day includes a few things on the to-do list that are easy to put off or delegate to a team mate when you know you should handle it yourself. Reframing tasks can provide that extra motivation to dig in and get the job done right. Have you ever considered re-naming calendar events to draw out their importance? For example, instead of "Review SDR Team Calls" try naming the event "Help Coach SDR Call Techniques" or "Increase Team Conversions Through Improving Calls."

So there you have it: our short list of leadership skills that everyone can learn from Leslie Knope.

Sure, there will be days that don't go as planned. Leadership is no easy assignment. I'll leave you with the wise words of Ron Johnson (Leslie's boss): "Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do."

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Related Reading:

What kind of boss are you?

10 Habits of Successful Leadership


About the Author:

Lindsay DubbeldeeLindsey Dubbeldee brings more than a decade of experience in recruiting in her role as a Director at SkyWater Search Partners.


(952) 767-9000



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