Office Life

Leadership Lessons from Leslie Knope of ‘Parks and Recreation’

Who knew NBC’s Parks and Recreation was littered with so many useful business tips? We’ve written about Andy Dwyer and Tom Haverford in the past; now it’s time to focus on Leslie Knope, the protagonist of the show as portrayed by Amy Poehler. Over the course of four seasons, Leslie has developed into a wonderfully layered character who successfully leads her coworkers at Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation department. Her leadership qualities and general attitude toward life are, in my opinion, pretty darn admirable. Let me introduce you to the reasons why I think Leslie makes a great leader:

She cares about the work.

If there’s anyone who’s dedicated to her job, it’s Leslie Knope. Leslie doesn’t treat her job as a chore; rather, she looks forward to it. She is well-versed in Pawnee’s history and genuinely loves the town that she serves, and she goes out of her way to improve the town so that others can enjoy the place as much as she does. As her campaign ad shows, she has been an advocate of her hometown since she was a little girl and has carried that passion into her adult life:

She is self-disciplined and ambitious.

Not only is Leslie invested in what she does, but she works really hard, too. She often spends her time outside of work researching projects, and even sneaks into the Parks and Recreation department to continue working during the brief time she’s been suspended from her post (long story). Besides putting all her efforts into current projects, she is also always looking ahead and setting goals for the future. Her ambitions, including one day becoming the first female president, may seem out of reach, but her work ethic and positive attitude might just take her all the way to the top.

She cares about the people.

Despite all the complaining Pawneeans do at town meetings, Leslie is still happy to lead the meetings and address the people’s issues because she deeply cares about their happiness. Leslie holds a special place in her heart for her coworkers; the personalized Christmas and birthday gifts she gives her friends each year are evidence of Leslie’s thoughtfulness and love for them. Such gestures inspire deep respect from her coworkers, leading to a strong team of supporters who do better work because of her.

She is optimistic and goodhearted.

Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler

Leslie tries to make work fun for those around her and spreads optimism even if the situation looks hopeless. Her positive attitude and confidence in her coworkers encourage success; for example, she and her team managed to put on a children’s concert even after severe budget cuts threatened to cancel the event. Leslie’s sense of humor also fosters a genial and productive atmosphere at the office.

She stands by her values.

Leslie strongly believes in her personal values and her stances on various political issues. However, she doesn’t look down on others who disagree with her. Whether it be an inconsequential thing like her opinion on Twilight or something as important to her as not running an attack ad during her campaign, Leslie sticks to her guns. When she does take offense to something, she stands up for herself. For instance, in the episode “Bowling for Votes,” Leslie doesn’t apologize to voters for her boyfriend punching a Pawnee resident who had called her an insulting name. Instead, she stands up for herself at a town press conference and actually wins voter favor because of it.

Granted, Leslie is not perfect—she often takes things too personally and has a hard time accepting when someone doesn’t like her (such as the man from “Bowling for Votes”). Her competitive nature can also sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help. But despite her faults, Leslie Knope is still a strong role model for leadership, and we can all learn a little something from her.