shes the boss

25 Famous Women on Being in Charge

“A bossy woman is someone who cares and commits and is a natural leader.” —Amy Poehler
“A bossy woman is someone who cares and commits and is a natural leader.” —Amy Poehler Photo: Getty Images

There are badass females ruling from the top in many industries (see: Peggy Olson), but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy being in charge. In celebration of She’s the Boss Week, the Cut has compiled wisdom from famous women, including Jenna Lyons, Beyoncé, and Indra Nooyi, about being a leader — warts and all. Read on for smart words from CEOs, media moguls, entertainers, and heads of state, discussing everything from calling all the shots to demolishing the glass ceiling to reclaiming the word bossy.

Tina Fey
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” —Bossypants, 2011

Anna Wintour
“I think possibly what people working for one hate the most is indecision. Even if I’m completely unsure, I’ll pretend I know exactly what I’m talking about and make a decision. The most important thing I can do is try and make myself very clearly understood.” —WWD CEO Summit, October 2013

Nicki Minaj
“I handle my business and also I speak up for myself. But if I was not like this, so many people would’ve taken advantage of me. What people don’t understand is that when I [was coming up] I took a lot of shit from people, from men who didn’t want me to realize my own worth, who didn’t want me to know the truth about who I was and how good I was … I just always felt like, I’m never going to let anyone pull me down and make me feel small. I’m never going to let a man do that and I think sometimes that transfers over into your career as a woman … I’m a businesswoman. I run companies.” —Hot 97, May 2013

Hillary Rodham Clinton
“Whether I am meant to or not, I challenge assumptions about women. I do make some people uncomfortable, which I’m well aware of, but that’s just part of coming to grips with what I believe is still one of the most important pieces of unfinished business in human history — empowering women to be able to stand up for themselves.” —Vogue, December 2009

Amy Poehler
“Let me take a minute to say that I love bossy women. Some people hate the word, and I understand how ‘bossy’ can seem like a shitty way to describe a woman with a determined point of view, but for me, a bossy woman is someone to search out and celebrate. A bossy woman is someone who cares and commits and is a natural leader.”Yes, Please, October 2014

Jenna Lyons
“Managing creative people — not so easy. A lot of emotion, a lot of stroking. Some people need tough love. Some people need a lot of love. There’s no right or wrong answer. When someone creates something and puts it in front of you, that thing came from inside of them, and if you make them feel bad, it’s going to be hard to fix, because you’ve actually crushed them.” —Fast Company, April 2013

Malala Yousafzai
“We should not wait for someone else to come and raise our voice. We should do it by ourselves. We should believe in ourselves. Yes, we can do it. One day you will see that all the girls will be powerful; all the girls will be going to school. And it is possible only by our struggle; only when we raise our voice.” —Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards, 2013

Christina Tosi (Chef and Owner, Milk Bar)
“I try to be a mentor not only to my team but to anyone in the industry. It’s cutthroat like any other competitive industry, and I think I do tend to have more of a female nurturing mentality. I want to help other people. I want to be the opposite of what people think they’re going to get if they get into the industry [and find themselves in over their heads].” —Refinery29, August 2014

Mary Barra (CEO of General Motors)
There are more women in more senior roles than in 1980 when I started. But from my career perspective, I don’t go into a room and take count. I want to be recognized for my contribution and for what I do. Yeah, there were probably times it was to my benefit, and there were probably times when it was not to my benefit. But that is true for everyone. There are always things that potentially impact how you are received. And I just don’t focus on it. I don’t focus on what you can’t control.” New York Times, December 10, 2013

Katy Perry
“I am proud of my position as a boss, as a person that runs my own company. I’m an entrepreneur. … I don’t want to shy away from it. I actually want to kind of grab it by its balls.” Forbes, July 2015

Tavi Gevinson
“[Being a boss] is my job. I’m sure that some people would probably not like taking directions from a teenager but that’s what [Rookie] is. Everyone working on it, we’re all feminists here and I don’t think anyone I work with would interpret that being a boss would be like being a bitch or anything.” —MTV Style, September 2011

Shonda Rhimes
“All of the women, white or black or brown who woke up like this, who came before me in this town. Think of them … How many women had to hit that glass before the pressure of their effort caused it to evolve from a thick pane of glass into just a thin sheet of splintered ice? … Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side was simply a matter of running on a path created by every other woman’s footprints. I just hit at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot.” The Hollywood Reporter’s 23rd annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast, December 2014

Mindy Kaling
“Well, [being a boss] was the thing I was kind of most excited about. You know, I came into the new show thinking, oh, let me have this democratic way of doing the show because I remember what it was like being a staff writer … At the beginning, I started at the show being a little bit too democratic … I just didn’t want to, like, overcorrect and become, like, the Saddam Hussein of the new job … [I]t was a really interesting learning experience, deciding that I have to just be very decisive and not take everyone’s opinion.’” NPR, September 2012

Kim Kardashian
“When I hear people say [what are you famous for?], I want to say, what are you talking about? I have a hit TV show. We’ve shot more episodes than I Love Lucy! We’ve been on the air longer than The Andy Griffith Show! I mean, these are iconic shows, so it blows my mind when people say that … I work really hard — I have seven appointments tomorrow before 10am. I’m constantly on the go. I have a successful clothing line. A fragrance. I mean, acting and singing aren’t the only ways to be talented. It’s a skill to get people to really like you for you, instead of a character written for you by somebody else.” The Guardian, September 2012

Diane von Furstenberg
“I am a founder, I am a creator, a person who invented something and who invented herself. I can inspire people and motivate people. I can do that.” Nora Ephron
“If you want to be successful and you are a woman, you have to understand that there’s all kinds of horrible stuff that comes with it, and you simply cannot do anything about it but move on.”
The New Yorker, July 2009

Marissa Mayer
“I realized in all the cases where I was happy with the decision I made, there were two common threads: Surround myself with the smartest people who challenge you to think about things in new ways, and do something you are not ready to do so you can learn the most.” Los Angeles Times, January 2011

Angela Merkel
“You could certainly say that I’ve never underestimated myself, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious.” —Time, 2010

Sheryl Sandberg
“A good leader recognizes that most people won’t feel comfortable challenging authority, so it falls upon authority to encourage them to question. It’s easy to say that you’re going to encourage feedback but it’s hard to do, because unfortunately it doesn’t always come in a format we want to hear.” —Harvard Business School Class Day, May 2012

Indra Nooyi (Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo)
“The one thing I have learned as a CEO is that leadership at various levels is vastly different. When I was leading a function or a business, there were certain demands and requirements to be a leader. As you move up the organization, the requirements for leading that organization don’t grow vertically; they grow exponentially. When I was president of the company, I said, ‘Okay, I can do this—piece of cake.’ Then when you are the CEO, the responsibilities multiply enormously because you worry about everything.” No Fear of Failure: Real Stories of How Leaders Deal With Risk and Change, May 2011

“I worked so hard during my childhood to meet this goal: By the time I was 30 years old, I could do what I want. I’ve reached that. I feel very fortunate to be in that position. But I’ve sacrificed a lot of things, and I’ve worked harder than probably anyone I know, at least in the music industry. So I just have to remind myself that I deserve it.” GQ, February 2013

Ellen Pao
“I think when you start out in your career, you think that everything is fair, and you are getting equal opportunities. And as you move up higher in the ranks, you realize that actually there are fewer positions and it’s more competitive and it’s harder to get those opportunities. And then you reach a point where you realize, hey, these opportunities are not equal, and I think that’s been the case for many women.” The Wall Street Journal, April 2015

Taylor Swift
“When I’m in management meetings when we’re deciding my future, those decisions are left up to me. I’m the one who has to go out and fulfill all these obligations, so I should be able to choose which ones I do or not. That’s the part of my life where I feel most in control.” —Harper’s Bazaar, December 2012

Condoleezza Rice
“It’s also important to realize that it’s okay to be the first. If you constantly look for role models who look like you, then there won’t be any firsts. Sally Ride would not have been the first woman astronaut had she been looking for a woman to follow.” The Women’s Conference, 2008

Salma Hayek
“Imagine if I’d said, ‘I have to be the best actress — I want that and nothing else.’ I never would have directed. I never would have produced. I never would have done a beauty line. I would have just worried about getting a job or been frustrated that I wasn’t getting the job that I wanted. I was ready to be a businesswoman.” —Marie Claire, April 2012

25 Famous Women on Being in Charge