Beth Nilssen
February 17, 2015 / Great Advice

Four leadership lessons from Mister Rogers

Leadership lessons turn up in the darnedest places, don’t they?

You don’t have to be reading the Harvard Business Review every week to find some good, common-sense business insight. In fact, you might start looking for leadership tips from the things your kids—from toddlers to teens—are watching on television.

For example, Mister Rogers Neighborhood or The Walking Dead.

That’s right, you can pick up some leadership tips from the nice man in a cardigan sweater or from a man dodging zombies in a post-apocalyptic world. My perspective on these pop-culture characters was transformed by reading posts on, a blog by executive coach and organizational strategist Jone Bosworth. She’s one of those people who finds insightful and relatable lessons in unlikely places.

Mr. Rogers, of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, didn’t win the Nobel Prize but he was given the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom—and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Jone gleaned 15 lessons in leadership from the late children’s television host in her post, Leadership Guidance from the World’s Nicest Grown-Up. The list is practically an MBA in management, not to mention life in general.

Four ways to be a leader like the world's nicest grown-up

  1. Want to achieve ultimate success? Be Kind. “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” (Great Clips CEO Rhoda Olsen would agree that success starts with kindness.)

  2. What to do in times of stress? Ask Questions, Listen With Heart. “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”

  3. Think you can have it all? Nope. Make Choices. “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. ”

  4. Want to grow your leadership? Embrace Problems. “It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”

We live in such a sharp-edged world, where it seems like everyone is always throwing an elbow to get ahead, that it’s easy to be cynical about a show like Mr. Rogers. In his world, the important thing is to be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt. The genius of Mr. Rogers’ philosophy was recognizing that we sometimes need a softer world, a slower pace to absorb everything that’s going on in the world. My favorite insight from Mr. Rogers is this:

“The world needs a sense of worth and it will achieve it only by its people feeling they are worthwhile.” 

If we could all keep that gem of advice front and center when dealing with people, I think our customers, our employees and co-workers, our family and friends—yes, even ourselves—would all feel more content and fulfilled.

Okay, maybe your kids—or you—have outgrown Mr. Rogers. You say the world is a much tougher place, and you want leadership or management examples geared to our current dark challenges? In a future post, I’ll share what we can learn about leadership from the television show, The Walking Dead. Yes, zombies have been known to bring out the best—and worst—leadership skills in us all!

What cultural icon, media star or TV show do you get leadership ideas from? Donald Trump in The Celebrity Apprentice? Miranda Bailey in Grey’s Anatomy? Captain Kirk in Star Trek? So many to learn from, so little time. Use the comment box below to tell me who your leadership mentor is!

Photo from IMDB

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on February 17, 2015
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