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Leadership Lessons from Barbie

As renowned Director, Greta Gerwig recently released her movie, Barbie, we reflect on this sometimes controversial figure. The iconic doll is a memorable childhood figure for many. Whether you cherished your own Barbie dolls, tortured them as part of a sibling rivalry, played with a friend’s, or observed them on a store shelf, you have likely had a Barbie encounter at some point.

The toy has been criticized for its unrealistic representation of the female body, rightly so in our opinion. Yet, it can also be argued that Barbie has positive attributes. The significance of this pop-culture figure can be viewed through many different lenses. Some might even see Barbie as a strong female leader who never stops learning and follows her dreams. As #NeverStopLearning is one of Fuse’s biggest values, we want to explore that aspect further.

Barbie’s continuous evolution is one example of her desire to learn and adapt to be the most effective leader possible. She has transformed from solely representing one type of “beauty” to being a role model as a business executive, astronaut, firefighter, surgeon, teacher, journalist, and more. Barbie has filled many roles since her debut in 1959.

As the History Channel’s Barbie Through the Ages explains “Over the span of her existence, Barbie has had more than 250 careers. She broke the plastic ceiling when she went to the moon in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong. In many ways, Barbie has represented an opposition to societal norms. When women were redefining their roles at home and in the working world, Barbie encouraged them to seek a seat at the table. While it was easier for Barbie to pull up a chair to the boardroom table than most humans (since someone was physically picking her up and placing her there) her “courage” to evolve into different personas demonstrated the value of diverse experiences.

We also admire Barbie’s (or Mattel’s) ability to transform her leadership approach, depending on community interest and environmental circumstances. To encourage more girls to explore the STEM field, Barbie has been a computer engineer, video game developer, Mars explorer, and robotics engineer.

As Insights® Discovery practitioners, we highly value Barbie’s leadership adaptability. Insights workshops help participants identify their natural behavioral preferences, then enlighten them on the value of not staying stuck in our ways. Like Barbie’s evolution, Insights participants learn how adapting communication styles to meet others more in the middle allows everyone to collectively succeed. Both Barbie and Fuse love a good collaboration party! Do you?

For example, while Barbie may not initially have an affinity for the tireless detailed analysis of a scientific researcher, she can draw on other traits, like her ability to recruit and lead talented teammates to successfully perform the work together. Or, in her role as a teacher, if Barbie is not innately a nurturing leader, she can learn to build the skills of being empathetic and a good listener.

Is it a little far-fetched to think that everyone can constantly reinvent themselves, like Barbie? Yes. However, tools like Insights Discovery can help individuals, leaders and teams adjust and adapt to be most successful. Similarly, if there is an area in which an individual is struggling, they and/or their leader can use Insights activities to reduce barriers to effectiveness.

If you would like to learn more about your leadership style or how to bring out the best in your team, contact us to learn more. Channel your inner #NeverStopLearning Barbie!

Author: Kristen Theisen with contributions from Tracy Graf


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