5 Leadership Lessons We Learned From Mean Girls

Reflecting back on the early 2000s teen comedy Mean Girls, we’ve found that there are a few lessons to be learned about leadership. Read on to discover its most valuable advice for your team's success.

Leadership lessons coming through! Watch out, please!

It’s a common assumption that managers are born with the innate skills that set them up for leadership success. But the reality is that most of the characteristics that make up a good leader - like mutual respect, collaboration, and team empowerment - are learned skills developed over time.

Learning from other strong leaders can help you expand your own abilities to become a stronger, more supportive leader for your team. And who better to teach us these skills than Cady Heron and the Plastics from the iconic movie Mean Girls?

Lesson 1: Don’t let power go to your head


When Cady ditches her good friends Janice and Damien for the Plastics, the popularity gets to her head. She makes a quick recovery to her old self, but we don’t want to replicate her actions as leaders.

Leadership isn’t about you. It’s about the team you lead. One of the most important jobs you have as a leader is to take care of your team and make it apparent that you’re their #1 supporter. The more you focus on the growth of those around you and aid your team in recognizing their full potential, the more success you’ll have as a leader. When employees know they’re heard, valued, and respected, they perform better and act in the company's best interest

Lesson 2: When things don’t go your way, get creative


When the Plastics perform their saucy number for the school talent show, Gretchen kicks the stereo off the stage, and the music completely cuts out. After a few seconds to process, Cady gets everyone to start singing “Jingle Bell Rock” so they can finish the performance. While it was an embarrassing moment, some creative thinking ends the show in an unforgettable way.

Business doesn’t always go as planned, but what’s important is that you stay flexible and adaptable when things go sideways. Modifying your managerial approach in response to uncertain or unpredictable circumstances encourages new ways to solve problems and establishes trust with your team. When employees know that you can easily pivot to overcome obstacles while still achieving company goals, they’ll be inspired to do the same.

Lesson 3: Don't be afraid to apologize


When Cady realizes she messed up by putting her true friends on the back burner, she goes to great depths to apologize for her mistakes. She dedicates her prom queen speech to all the lessons she learned in the process. (Everyone deserves a piece of that crown!)

Mistakes are bound to happen in leadership positions. But a past mistake shouldn’t be a point of embarrassment or shame, but a lesson that can improve your decisions and help you grow as an individual. Acknowledging missteps, asking for forgiveness, and examining how you can change that situation will make you a better leader.

So repeat after us, leaders: Apologizing doesn’t undermine your authority.

Lesson 4: Leaders can be vicious; don't be.


Cady learns quickly that high school is “like a shark tank.” People can be cruel, manipulative, and out for their best interests (cough, Regina). These aren’t characteristics to be emulated at the leadership level, either.

A leader can’t just dictate tasks and make final decisions; they also need to be a source of inspiration for the team. Being open, creating positive change, taking responsibility, and being passionate about work helps you stand apart from others and shine as a leader. The aim is to make people want to follow you, so be nice and don’t be a “life ruiner.”

Lesson 5: “Don't let the haters stop you from doing your thang”


Leaders have many things to juggle - projects, budgets, workplace culture, and employee happiness are just a few of those elements. But working environments and social expectations have a sneaky way of pressuring leadership to act a certain way, like supporting hierarchical structures and antiquated working methods. Just remember, if you’re trying your best and your team is happy with your management style, and it works for you too, don’t let the haters bring you down.

Content Writer
From California, Lillie is passionate about personal development and the Future of Work. She enjoys writing about New Work concepts, leadership solutions, and productivity hacks, all with a sprinkle of quirky humor.