Common Purpose / 23 January 2024

An Influencer & A Revolutionary Sit In A Cafeteria… This Is What ‘Mean Girls’ Can Teach Us About Leadership

Unexpected, albeit valuable lessons to be learned.


Sometimes, valuable lessons can be learned in the most unexpected of places – noughties phenomenon and 2024 musical remake ‘Mean Girls’ is case in point.  

We know what you’re thinking – bit of a stretch? Surely there are better examples? The latter may be so, but upon close inspection on some of the main characters from the iconic Tina Fey comedy, we discovered that there is quite a lot to be learned from the likes of Regina George, Cady Heron. and even Karen Smith. Below, we unpack their leadership styles, and the surprisingly valuable lessons they teach us.  

Regina George: The Influencer  

Regina George is feared and revered among folk at North Shore High. What Regina does, people follow - her influence is undeniable, and she uses it strategically to retain her social dominance. She sets fashion trends, she speaks her mind without fear of judgement, and she does everything with an air of confidence that people can’t help but listen to.  

Of course, we know that this kind of leadership style can have its downsides, especially when the sentiment behind it isn’t in the best interest of the said leader’s devout followers. Because of this, we can learn some key leadership lessons from Regina.   

Regina’s key leadership lesson: 

Confidence and using your voice without fear is all well and good, but it’s so important to understand the extent of your influence and the impact it will have on your followers.  

Gretchen Wieners: The Experimenter 

Gretchen tries to make ‘fetch’ happen, and herein lies the basis to her leadership style. While already part of the popular Plastics, Gretchen’s social status is technically under no threat. But instead of remaining comfortable with a status quo, Gretchen isn’t afraid to try new things. Along with her arguably failed attempt to make ‘fetch’ a thing, she also experiments with different approaches in order to test the value of her place within her friendship group. She tries, and sometimes, she fails – and that’s a lesson in itself.  

Gretchen’s key leadership lesson:  

Sometimes, it’s worth trying something new and taking a punt status quo is in need of a shake-up. And if all else fails? Try, try again.   

Cady Heron: The Mimicker  

Starting at a brand new school midway through your teens is never easy, and Cady Heron’s experience is no exception – she’s an outsider, but she wants to fit in. To do this, Cady adapts her behaviour to be similar to those around her, and she’s pretty successful when she really puts her mind to it. In this way, we can pin-point Cady’s leadership style as the mimicker. Unlike Gretchen, she wants to maintain the status quo, and she uses it to her advantage to maintain her own social status.  

Cady’s key leadership lesson:  

While it’s important to observe and learn as much as possible about your surroundings in order to have an impact on those around you, be careful not to conform to outdated or problematic social standards – otherwise you’ll only feed the beast.  

Karen Smith: The go-with-the-flow-er 

Karen Smith does things without question. She’s seemingly easy-going, enjoys taking direction and isn’t particularly sensitive to her surroundings. This go-with-the-flow, team-player attitude stands her in good stead when it comes to strengthening her place in her friendship group – but her lack of awareness can also be detrimental when it comes to addressing challenges and sparking change.  

Karen’s key leadership lesson:  

Collaborating with like-minded people and being a team player is important in cementing your position, but it’s also important to be proactive and assertive in your own right – after all, different perspectives bring different (and more) opportunities.  

Janis Ian: The Revolutionary 

Rebellious, outspoken, and inquisitive, Janis will fight back when she sees something she doesn’t like. During the Plastics’ reign of dominance, Janice actively sought opportunities to bring down the hierarchy.  In this way, she is the prime example of a revolutionary leader, brave enough to challenge the status quo, and motivated enough to gather and nurture the resources needed to challenge it effectively.  

Janis’ key leadership lesson:  

While change can be understandably scary and uncertain, Janis’ narrative teaches us that sometimes, it’s worth pushing past our fears and tackling the biggest challenges in order to bring about change for the better. 


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