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14 Leadership Lessons Learned from “Barbie”

Did you play with Barbie dolls when you were little?

When I was a kid, my five siblings and the neighborhood kids played games outside like kickball, hide & seek, dodgeball, and sometimes schoolhouse or hospital drama.

We even put on plays, magic shows, and country fairs before we became teenagers. I rarely played with dolls at all.

So when I became a mother of a growing daughter, I remember thinking that I would never buy her a Barbie. I had made a judgment about the doll itself. That “perfect shape” seemed ridiculous!

I mean I had all these good reasons in my head that no one should be like Barbie. She was too perfect. That Barbie doll body was like no real person I ever knew and I didn't want my daughter growing up thinking she should be like that.

But then she begged me to buy her a Barbie and I caved. Yet, it didn't seem to warp her one bit. We also gave her an American Girl Doll, one that looked like her (Minnie Me) which was another perspective.

picture of old Barbies
14 Leadership Lessons Learned from “Barbie”

And now, 20 years later, I have lots of Barbie dolls (or maybe they are Skipper?) at my house that my grandkids brought over to play with.

They are well-loved and so diverse. And check out this shoe collection! I set them up so you could see. They have a drum set too of course.

When I heard about the Barbie movie and saw the trailer, I was like, "Whaaaaat? Yeah, no. I don't need to see that."

Then it opened in the theaters and there was lots of hype everywhere about how good this movie was! So I took a Friday off from work and went to see it with a good friend.

And girl did we laugh! It was so good to laugh in that movie, at life, at what we've created in our culture and all the subtle messages.

It was colorful, and well done, with a fantastic cast. There were many hidden and not-so-hidden innuendos. So fun.

The main character is "stereotypical Barbie" and she lives in Barbieland. She may not know it, but she has many excellent leadership qualities.

Whether you've seen the movie or not, you'll understand this list and the lessons learned. Do you think these characteristics make for a good leader?

  1. Barbie’s super friendly and connects warmly with everyone

  2. When things don't go her way she takes it in stride and doesn't freak out

  3. When she is confused and upset, she seeks out assistance from her peers

  4. She plays hard and encourages participation from everyone

  5. She has firm boundaries with Ken (and others like him)

  6. She is curious and she listens to others input

  7. She feels her feelings when they arise

  8. She sets goals and a plan to achieve them

  9. She listens to her intuition in scary situations

  10. She is authentic and non-judgmental

  11. She addresses her issues and is strategic in finding solutions

  12. She follows through on implementing plans

  13. She takes control of a bad situation and delivers difficult news with kindness

  14. She encourages and mentors other Barbie's to follow their dreams and to be who they are (and it's okay to be weird)


I think the world would be a better place if we were all a little more like Barbie.

I hope you get a chance to see the movie. America Ferrara is brilliant too. And Kate McKinnon, wow! So good.

Take a lesson from Barbie: Leadership is not always about moving your agenda forward. Sometimes it’s taking a step back and doing what’s best for the community as well.


Maureen Ross Gemme | Emerge Leadership Academy, LLC
Maureen Ross Gemme | Emerge Leadership Academy, LLC

Meet the expert:

Maureen Ross Gemme, MS Ed., is a leadership trainer and personality expert based in Connecticut. After 30 years in corporate, she founded Emerge Leadership Academy in 2013.

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