5 Timeless Lessons from Olivia Pope in Scandal

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While watching the TV Series Scandal, I felt like Olivia Pope (Kerri Washington) was a role model, superhero, and big sister all wrapped up in one. Here are a few things all of us can learn from Olivia’s bad-ass approach to life.

Trust your gut. Olivia is amazing at reading people — that’s where she gets her most reliable information. Listen to what your gut is telling you, even when others are trying to distract you and sway you in a different direction.

Be A Gladiator

All true “Scandal” fans will recall the pilot episode when Harrison was trying to impress upon Quinn the importance of what the fixers do: “I’m a gladiator in a suit. Because that’s what you are when you work for Olivia – you’re a gladiator in a suit. Do you want to be a gladiator in a suit?” The term has since become emblematic of the show. But, what does he mean?

From a professional perspective, he means that he and Olivia and Abby work tirelessly and fight passionately for what they believe is right. They never quit until the good guy is victorious. While very few professions involve “fighting” for the good guy, all professional leaders can learn from Olivia and her team’s unwavering commitment to their clients. Liv and the team don’t rest until the client is vindicated.

In a way, the term, “Gladiators in suits” brings to mind the idiom, “A wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Powerful business leaders like Olivia Pope present to the world an impeccable, polished face that can belie the scrappy fighter that lies beneath. That fighting spirit can be applied to the work you do for your clients as well as the way you go to bat for your team, no matter what you’re up against.

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No One’s Perfect

While her fashion sense is arguably perfect, Ms. Pope herself is far from faultless. She’s quite aware of her weaknesses (namely a certain high-ranking political official), and those of the people around her. In fact, she hired each member of her team after having very intimate knowledge of their past mistakes. Never forget that she met Huck when he was essentially a homeless lunatic living in the subway. All of her people have made serious mistakes and are prone to occasional breakdowns, but she continues to support them regardless.

Neither you nor anyone at your workplace is perfect – they’re faulted human beings who have made errors and will continue to make them. The important thing is that, ultimately, you believe in their capabilities and skills enough to see them through those errors and help teach them how to do better next time. Leaders must invest in their team, and investing is a long-term game.

Say what you will about Olivia Pope and her often blind weakness for the wrong man, but she is a fierce leader who many of us would gladly work for. We should all be so lucky to have a team that would follow us into battle the way her Associates would.

 

Confidence will get you places. She knows she’s skilled, and she’s not afraid to say it to the big, scary bureaucrats who try to intimidate her. Own what you’re good at!

Good guys don’t always finish last. There’s a common narrative in life that bullies rise to the top while good people get stepped on. Olivia fights the good fight (well, most of the time) and still practically runs the world. Take note!

Next time you’re in a moment of professional crisis, just think, “WWOPD?” What would Olivia Pope do?

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