Leadership Lessons From Madam Secretary

Jan 24, 2019 1 Min Read

Netflix, the steadfast companion on tired weeknights.

A glass of wine, some food, and my husband and I settled in front of our TV is a common sight on weeknights.

While movie-watching unwittingly gets one to stay longer in front of the TV; a Netflix show (we stick to a single episode) is short and ensures we go to bed on time. Our favourite: Madam Secretary.

  1. Solution Orientation

Every problem comes with a solution; it certainly won’t be apparent but keep trying. Back yourself up, especially when others don’t want to.

The running theme of the show is when international relations with Cuba, Saudi, or Afghanistan get affected, the situation always seems to be at a point no return. Madam Secretary gets the team to together to look at data including history nation, past instances interactions, current agreements, and sanctions.

Lesson: Critically looking at the problem and available information can get one closer to the solution.

Albert Einstein once said, “We are boxed in by the boundary conditions of our thinking.” To expand thinking and create solutions; we need to analyse the situation and hold ourselves accountable to actions taken.

  1. Be Open

Accept help and input from those younger or older than you. In one of the episodes, Elizabeth McCord is seen seeking advice from a retired statesman. At other times, she has her young and dynamic team guiding her.

Lesson: In a world where access of knowledge, information, and data is available to all; it rarely matters what your level in the organisation is. Help is everywhere.

In a recent interview of Anand Mahindra (Chairman and chief executive (CEO) of Mahindra & Mahindra), he spoke of using Twitter to connect with people – customers, talent, and the public at large. He mentioned that he learnt to use Twitter from an intern who worked with him several years ago. If he can, we can!

READ: A Change of Approach: Lessons from Journeying with Contemporary Youth

  1. Bring Out The Best In Others

Secretary Mccord leads a team of 6 to 8 people. As a leader, she commands respect from her team. Is adequately distant take objective decisions regarding their performance yet close enough to gift her favourite wet and dry hand-held vacuum cleaner to her team member who had a baby – an item she believes is an asset for every new parent.

Lesson:n effective leader needs to bring out the best in those around them. In the words of Elizabeth McCord, “We need heroes who’ll inspire us so that maybe next time we’ll dig a little deeper and find our best self.”

By backing her team members’ decisions and critically analysing her own actions, she creates an environment of openness and commitment. Her values and ethics are uncompromised ‒ which certainly adds to the respect she earns from leaders across the world.

  1. Beyond The Call Of Duty

Secretary McCord is comfortable enough to show her compassionate side and do things for people beyond her call of duty. She is ready to stick her neck out for what she believes is right and chases it ‒ like getting a young refugee kid operated on a naval ship amidst a war.

Lesson: While we all have duties to do, there are opportunities to have fun, show compassion and build camaraderie.

  1. Family Matters

Like every busy professional, she has her own share of misses – like not having a baby book for Kid Number 3 or missing the fact that the teenage daughter may have a new boyfriend.

But here the protagonist shows us what being in a healthy marriage means. As a couple, one parent is always there for the children.

Whether it’s talking to Stevie about her career aspirations or giving her a shoulder when her engagement broke off, supporting and cheering Noodle during her mid-terms, or driving Jason to meet his new girlfriend, her relationship with Henry (husband) is one that makes everyone jealous.

Lesson: They constantly encourage and support one another on both home and work fronts. My husband and I learnt to put on a single front to our son irrespective of our personal differences on how much TV to watch or how late to sleep! It does help my son too ‒ knowing that there is one set of rules in the family.

In conclusion

In summary, we are our entire selves whether at work or at home. Our teams, colleagues, and families add to our well-being (that’s if we let them).

Each one of us may not be saving the world from the next catastrophe; unlike my fictional hero Elizabeth McCord is. In our own ways, however, we can make a difference to the world around us; if we keep the world within us spirited and positive.


Riddhi has over 15 years experience in various business roles including talent management, human resources, sales and business development. She is a director of Leaderonomics India, helping organisations develop their leaders as well as support the growth of leaders of all ages across India. She is a trainer, facilitator and leadership development specialist who is passionate about building leaders at every level. To connect with Riddhi, email us at editor@leaderonomics.com.

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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