What Joan Rivers Taught us About Leadership

Posted on September 5, 2014.

Along with millions of people around the globe, I was deeply saddened by the passing of Joan Rivers. She brought the kind of humor I think we could all use a little more of right now. She was ground breaking, gutsy and inspired others. So despite her critics, Joan led her life the way a great leader should by:

·      Being ground breaking.  I’m old enough to remember that before people like Joan Rivers, there were not a lot of female comedians.  And other than Phyllis Diller, I can’t think of any that did stand up.  As a leader, you need to take some risks. Show people that you have the courage to step outside what’s expected of both you and your company.

·      Putting family first.  Despite what seemed like a relentless schedule, Joan was devoted to her daughter and grandson.  Leadership puts a huge demand on your time, but if you don’t sit back and realize what’s really important, you can create a culture where everyone is afraid to speak up and be honest about wanting some balance.

·      Having humility.  Joan may have made her mark criticizing fashion, but no one was more critical of Joan than Joan.  She made so much fun of her plastic surgery that no one else could top her.  Checking your ego at the door and being a little self-effacing goes a long way to cultivating followership.

·      Having courage. Joan Rivers never backed down from a fight.  Just check out some of her YouTube moments addressing hecklers.  If you’re going to take a stand as a leader, then stick to it.  Waffling and being indecisive creates uncertainty. 

·      Being kind.  I read many of the statements online from people that really knew Joan Rivers.  And without exception, they use the phrase; “she was such a kind person”. She also devoted countless hours to numerous charities.  Wouldn’t you like to work for someone who treats you with respect and encourages giving back?

·      Having a sense of humor.  Even at 81 years old, I found myself doubled over with laughter watching her on The Fashion Police.  She never took herself too seriously and encouraged others to do the same.  Great Leaders know when to be funny and when to be serious. Sometimes even the most serious situations call for humor.  As Joan said, “Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century”.

You may not think that Joan Rivers and Leadership have much in common, but great leadership comes in many shapes and sizes. And isn’t real leadership just determining if people are following you?