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The Bold Type and the leadership lessons from a fictional television character

The Bold Type and the leadership lessons from a fictional television character

​Not long ago, I was bemoaning to my colleagues that I was struggling to find something binge worthy to watch on Netflix. I had lost my binge mojo, and nothing was capturing my attention, with indecisiveness and a short attention span contributing to my streaming slump. My woke and educated millennial colleagues are a great source of information when it comes to all things pop culture, including the new fancy bar I will not likely frequent anytime soon. Nonetheless I sought their counsel for streaming suggestions and with great fervour they provided me with the recommendations on what I needed to put on my watch list.

On top of that list was ‘The Bold Type.’

How this show started in 2017 and how I knew nothing of is a mystery beyond understanding. Bright and shiny, a celebration of female solidarity, career, feminism and fabulous outfits. It balanced the irrelevant with the meaningful, tackling social issues such as race, gender, identity, politics and social status, the writers not afraid to write from a place of discomfort. It was thought provoking and it was glorious to watch.

If a show could be my spirit animal.

Set in the magazine and media world, with New York as the backdrop, the show centres around three protagonists, their lives, loves, aspirations and friendships I’m sure it is in many ways an unrealistic and a romanticised, cliched version of magazine life. Even still, the characters symbolise the qualities that many millennials are known for. They each have a desire to advocate for change, challenge the norm, fight for social equality and to live a life with impact all while having seemingly endless access to a fashion closet that only lives in my chain store dreams.

For me though, where the show really transcended was the portrayal of Jacqueline Carlyle, Editor-in-Chief of Scarlet magazine.

If a character could be my kindred spirit.

I expected glossy escapism, what I didn’t expect was to get a fictional mentor and a masterclass in leadership.

What perhaps is a discredit to women and an unfortunate indictment on what we perceive as being entertainment, there is this stereotype of what we expect from on screen female bosses – namely that they are unpleasant and spiteful and when you put a group of women together in a workplace, they behave badly. The Bold Type is a wonderful portrayal of women that is a refreshing contrast to pitching women up against each other. By episode two I kept waiting on Jacqueline to go all ‘Devil wears Prada’ on me until it dawns on me that the script had been flipped.

How very welcoming.

Notwithstanding her enviable wardrobe or the fact that she has a treadmill in her office, Jacqueline exemplified the type of fearless leader I could only aspire to be. Over five seasons, we saw her exhibit a measured and calm manner and levelheadedness in her decision making, and an innate ability to empower people and elevate them to do their best work. It’s not that I don’t do these things, or certainly try to do them, it is that she did so effortlessly and did not falter from her vision or compromise on her values. She taught those around her to not fear failure and to not apologise when there is nothing to be sorry about. She had a commanding presence and was composed and firm. She was immensely lovely and accessible, the big glass door to her office always closed but metaphorically open. She never appeared harried or dishevelled. She is all that leaders wish they were and all that employees wish they had. Though of course she is fictional, this should not deny me of the desire to be her. She made me look at my own leadership style and realise I could do better.

“I really do believe you have the power to be exceptional” – Jacqueline Carlyle

I was once told that as a Leader I ‘wear my heart on my sleeve’ and to this day I’m still not sure if this was a compliment or a criticism. Prior to Pure Source Recruitment, and what feels like a lifetime ago, I was given advice that in business and in career it pays not to get too personal, but I’ve long been conflicted by this because recruitment, to me, is highly personal. The only way I can work the way I do is to connect the way that I do, to get to know someone’s back story, to seek to understand. If we have learnt anything in the last 18 months then surely it is that we have learnt the importance of connections and that humanity absolutely must exist within the workplace. To dismiss this would be to deprive us of these connections and we know that it these connections that not only drives culture but give us purpose.

Despite the challenges in her own life, Jacqueline maintained class and grace but as we got to know her story more we saw vulnerability that made me wonder if Brene Brown was a script writer on the show. With emotional depth, Jacqueline demonstrated the power in cultivating relationships with people that were meaningful and in doing so she proved that empathy and business are not mutually exclusive.

The Bold Type may have ended last week, I will allow the essence of Jacqueline to imbue my thoughts and when in doubt ask myself “What would Jacqueline do?”

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