Wisdom From the Top
While we still have a long way to go to achieve gender parity, we’re in an era where women are starting to get more representation at the top — and they’re speaking up about it. Which is good for all of us. Being vocal about managing a team, making tough business decisions, and being ambitious hopefully paves the way for more female leaders — something we desperately need.
Here are 10 bosses on being in charge.
In an interview with Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling said, "I love women who are bosses and who don't constantly worry about what their employees think of them. I love women who don't ask, 'Is that OK?' after everything they say.”
Kaling is a writer, producer, and actress. She currently stars on The Mindy Project, also serving as an executive producer and writer. She has written two books: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me?
In her book, Yes, Please, Amy Poehler writes, “Let me take a minute to say that I love bossy women. Some people hate the word, and I understand how ‘bossy’ can seem like a shitty way to describe a woman with a determined point of view, but for me, a bossy woman is someone to search out and celebrate. A bossy woman is someone who cares and commits and is a natural leader.”
Poehler is an actress, producer, and writer, known for her work on the TV shows Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. She serves as an executive producer on Comedy Central’s Broad City and Hulu’s Difficult People. Her memoir, Yes, Please, was released in 2014.
As Katy Perry put it in this Forbes profile, “I am proud of my position as a boss, as a person that runs my own company. I’m an entrepreneur...I don’t want to shy away from it. I actually want to kind of grab it by its balls.”
In Indra Nooyi’s words, “To be a truly adaptive leader, you must have open ears, listening to those around you. No single leader has all the answers all of the time. But if you listen to the right people — consumers, colleagues and communities — someone will. … Leading with an open mind means not only questioning everything your business does, but also having the courage to act on what you see and hear, sometimes in new ways.”
Nooyi is the chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo. She has appeared on Forbes’ list of the world's 100 most powerful women every year since 2008.
As Tina Fey wrote in Bossypants, “Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”
Fey is an actress, writer, and producer. She has appeared on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and in the film Mean Girls (which she wrote). Most recently, she produced the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She has won numerous awards, including eight Emmys and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Her book, Bossypants, spent five weeks on the New York Times best seller list.
Jenna Lyons told Fast Company: "Managing creative people — not so easy. A lot of emotion, a lot of stroking. Some people need tough love. Some people need a lot of love. There's no right or wrong answer. When someone creates something and puts it in front of you, that thing came from inside of them, and if you make them feel bad, it's going to be hard to fix, because you've actually crushed them."
Lyons is the creative director and president of J.Crew. A style icon (and J.Crew employee since age 21), The New York Times called Lyons “The Woman Who Dresses America.”
According to Sheryl Sandberg, “A good leader recognizes that most people won’t feel comfortable challenging authority, so it falls upon authority to encourage them to question. It’s easy to say that you’re going to encourage feedback, but it’s hard to do, because unfortunately it doesn’t always come in a format we want to hear.”
Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She was previously the vice president of global online sales and operations at Google and the chief of staff to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has sold more than 2 million copies.
Marissa Mayer told The Los Angeles Times: "I realized in all the cases where I was happy with the decision I made, there were two common threads: Surround myself with the smartest people who challenge you to think about things in new ways, and do something you are not ready to do so you can learn the most.”
Mayer has been the CEO of Yahoo! since 2012. She previously worked as an executive at Google. In 2014, Mayer was named the 18th most powerful woman in world by Forbes.
In a Refinery29 interview, Christina Tosi said, "I try to be a mentor not only to my team but to anyone in the industry. It's cutthroat like any other competitive industry, and I think I do tend to have more of a female nurturing mentality. I want to help other people. I want to be the opposite of what people think they're going to get if they get into the industry [and find themselves in over their heads].”
Tosi is a celebrity chef and author. She founded New York’s famed Momofuku Milk Bar, and she serves as a judge on Fox’s MasterChef and MasterChef Junior.
In an interview with Fortune, Ursula Burns said: “I say to my team all the time that this is how I grew up: always thinking that, at any minute, I could be unemployed. You have to scramble. You have to work hard and get ahead of things.”
Burns is the chairwoman and CEO of Xerox (and the first African-American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company). She famously started her tenure at Xerox as a summer intern.