10 Inspiring Leadership Lessons From Leslie Knope (Infographic)

heart-shaped waffle

The last episode of NBC’s Parks and Recreation aired in February of 2015, but that hasn’t put a damper on the cult-like popularity of the show.

While every character collected their share of fans, Leslie Knope has become something of a patron saint amongst overachievers, and her unique brand of unfalteringly sunny ambition has left a lasting legacy—on and off the screen.

In fact, after the 2016 election, Leslie Knope came out of retirement (courtesy of a Parks and Recreation writer) to pen a viral letter about democracy and progress — a testament to the long-lasting power of the character, even after the final curtain call.[1]

So what are Leslie Knope’s defining leadership traits, and what can they teach us about being a beloved boss?

leadership lessons from leslie knope

Take Care of Yourself

We heard a lot about self-care in 2017, which is great because without it you’re likely to become a burning match on legs. If you run your own business, or are a leader within your organization, self-care is a necessity.

When you’re responsible for the bottom line, it’s easy to extend your office hours, come in on weekends, and check your emails while in bed. But while there’s a time to torch the midnight hour, it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. So make sure you schedule time off to go eat waffles, or visit a petting zoo to find your very own Lil’ Sebastian. Whatever helps you relax!

Work Hard

Leslie Knope loved wine and whipped cream. But when it came to rolling up your sleeves, and getting your hands dirty — nobody did it better than Knope. When untoward youths were soiling Leslie’s beloved parks by slinging around bags of dog poop, who used a garbage can lid as a shield to shoo them away? Leslie. When Andy Dwyer tripped and fell into a giant pit, who lobbied to turn it into a park? You guessed it.

The message of the show was simple and reassuring. If you work hard, great things are possible. But you might have to battle a few raccoons to get there.

Lift Up Your Co-workers

Where would Leslie Knope be if it wasn’t for her rag-tag team of lovable misfits? It couldn’t have been easy to turn curmudgeonly Ron and apathetic April into a well-oiled government dream team, but she did it with relentless enthusiasm, lashings of praise, and leading by example.

The IRL lesson? Even a dull and de-spirited team can be rallied with the right leadership.

Keep Your Priorities Straight

It’s easy to forget about a work/life balance when you’re building your career. But it’s important to remember that business fortunes come and go. One day you’re the champion of Pawnee, the next day Perd Hapley is saying that you’re recalled.

By making sure that you maintain a solid work/life balance, you won’t feel destroyed should your luck go south for a season.

Aim For The Stars

Leslie Knope had a special blend of unrelenting ambition coupled with pure optimism. While sometimes the results were a bit like a freshly hatched duckling driving a steamroller, Leslie got things done. Even if her opponents were sometimes flattened, they still felt good about it. For the most part.

Leslie made being bossy cool, and made wanting to be the boss even cooler.

Love What You Do (And Who You Do It With)

If you’re planning on starting your own small business it’s important to love what you’re about to do. Because although the journey can be grueling, it’s worth the blood, sweat, and tears if you’re in love with what you do — and who you do it with.

And on that note…find your team and get to work!

Article Sources:

  1. Vox.com. “A Letter to America from Leslie Knope, Regarding Donald Trump
Founding Editor and VP at Fundera at Fundera

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. 

Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.

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