3 Leadership skills I learned from Joan Rivers

Love her or hate her, Joan Rivers represents more than cringe-worthy celebrity fashion bashing and plastic surgery.  She was part of my childhood growing up. I would nervously glance over at my Macedonian Nana, watching Joan’s latest antics, her mouth and eyes wide with shock, waiting for her to become wildly upset. Suddenly she would burst into infectious laughter and I’d be relieved we wouldn’t have the change the channel.

In recent years, Joan fed my insatiable hunger for celebrity gossip, either providing it herself, or providing me great scathing material to copy so I could provide hilarious fashion commentary for my friends when out for drinks.

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Despite an image that often resonated more with plastic surgery or her latest offensive comment, she somehow managed to forge a role in women’s leadership. Let’s look beyond her shameless obsession with looks and see that she did in fact serve as a role model and inspiration for women, overcoming blatant sexism to rise up as one of America’s first female standup comics.

3 Leadership Skills I learned from Joan Rivers…

1. Say it like it is.

Joan sure did not have the “nice filter” that we in business have seemed to grasp on to.    A good leader has the ability to not only provide the right recognition and rewards when necessary, but can also provide great critical feedback.  DISCLAIMER: I am NOT suggesting that we use sarcasm, teasing, and ridicule to provide feedback to our teams.  In fact, it was that razor sharp tongue that created a 3 decade long dispute with the Tonight Show – we don’t want that at work. No thank you. What we can do is channel a bit of that blunt, “say it like it is” attitude to just SAY what we need to say. Even if it is hard, or we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

2. Be humble.

Joan’s humour was often self deprecating.  The greatest leader’s and bosses have the ability to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and rather than fear their weaknesses and hide them, be okay with who their are.  Let’s be honest here. I’ve been using self deprecating humour since birth. But as a leader, sometimes I had this fear that if I showed my team that I wasn’t perfect they wouldn’t respect me. Not necessarily true. Demonstrate a humble attitude that tells the team: “I can’t do it all I need your help.” It is this kind of attitude that brings a group of individuals to works together with you as their boss to become and interdependent team -one that achieves more than every individual could do on their own.

3. Be Funny.

Work is serious. Your job is serious.  Issues at work are serious.  But, it’s okay to laugh.  It’s okay to make things light and fun, and to be serious when appropriate.  Again, I cannot profess that Joan taught me how to be funny (I was already incredibly hilareous). But her passing reminds us to share some laughs with our teams in her memory.

To conclude. I am hilarious, but also very humble, and when I channel my inner Joan, I can also tell people what I need to tell them without fear of hurting their feelings.

I’ve learned from my dealings with Johnny Carson that no matter what kind of friendship you think you have with people you’re working with, when the chips are down, it’s all about business. – Joan Rivers

Tell us about your inner Joan @whiteboardcons, #JoanRivers.

Until Next Time,

Nicole

 

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2 thoughts on “3 Leadership skills I learned from Joan Rivers

  1. I like the lessons you took away from Joan Rivers. She was a very polarizing woman that you either loved or hated. However, like you suggested, regardless of your personal feelings about her sharp tongue and plastic surgery habit, she did overcome a lot and had a wisdom we could all learn from. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Agreed. In fact, we probably learn the most from those “huge characters”, and less so from the quiet ones that go unnoticed.

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