“I think she will be remembered as the most powerful and consequential Speaker in many decades.” That’s how Thomas Mann, the Brookings Institution’s esteemed Congressional scholar, described Pelosi to Jay Newton-Small for her 2016 best-selling book ““Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing The Way America Works.”

She’s also a remarkable role model for women’s careers.

Mann said that for a book published in 2016, so it was even before covid, before the CARES Act and American Recovery Act. That was before her keeping the erratic and irresponsible 45th president of the United States and before impeachment. That was before she took charge during the attempt to overthrow the government on January 6, 2021, so Congress could continue certifying the 2020 presidential election of Joe Biden, saving the democracy. That was before the historic flurry of legislative achievements the past two years, including the first gun safety legislation passed in 30+ years, the Inflation Reduction Act’s historic investments to address climate change, or the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to finally rebuild the country’s decaying roads and bridges and provide broadband across the country.

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi steps aside as a leader in the Democratic party and American politics, she steps into history for her extraordinary, ground-breaking accomplishments that help make the lives of the American people better, safer, cleaner and less expensive.

She both reflected and altered the paths for women in the economy, as well as in political power, demonstrating how women can break through barriers to seize power, albeit with the scars of battle.

Here are 10 of the 20 career insights I see from watching Speaker Pelosi over the years and reviewing some of the best writings about her. The other 10 are here:


1. Understand the power of being underestimated: Women are consistently underestimated, from the suffragists to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Rosa Parks to Nancy Pelosi. Yet, flying under the radar for a while has its own power when we persist, have courage and leverage our resources.

“Again and again, Pelosi is dismissed, first as a dilettante housewife, then as a far-left San Francisco kook, finally as an establishment dinosaur — and throughout, as a woman. She perseveres, driven by a steely faith in her own abilities. And more often than not, she is vindicated,” is how Michelle Goldberg described her in a review of Molly Ball’s book, “Pelosi” in The New York Times.

2. Find a way: Women are natural innovators, because, without power and control of resources for so long, women had to find another way to get things done. Pelosi epitomizes that. “ ‘If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence,’ she said at the time. ‘If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the American people.’ ” That’s what she told Molly Ball for her book, “Pelosi,” as Ball recounted this week in Time magazine.

3. Reinvent yourself: Pelosi’s story of reinvention from homemaker to Speaker is legendary – and a model for all of us. As we evolve, our roles, goals, priorities and strategies evolve too.

4. Hire talented and capable people and get out of their way, but defend them fiercely: Pelosi specifically thanked her talented staff in her speech on the House floor this week. She’s not a micromanager either, it seems, but instead hires smart, capable people and lets them work.

5. Manage your appearance as a way that reflects who you are and what you can do. Pelosi always dresses well and strides with straight posture and poise. She wears bright colors to stand out, and has been called a “fashion icon.” She wears lots of well-fitted dresses and suits. Red, white and blue to support democracy. White suits in a nod to the suffragists who galvanized the country to ratify women’s right to vote. (She even matched her masks to outfits during the height of covid, which created its own memes.)

6. Know when to turn the reins over to the next leader: Some thought she should step aside in 2020, but the passage of so much landmark legislation over the past two years has proven how important it was for her to stay then, for the country’s benefit.

7. Have confidence in your abilities, with humility: Pelosi to a tee. She regularly shares credit.

8. Use all the resources at your disposal to get things done: You can only use the levers you have if you know what they are, and Pelosi is a master at finding and leveraging all kinds of resources.

9. Have people you can lean on, who support you: This ultimate politician is also first and foremost a wife, mother, grandmother, sister and daughter. She talks openly about her husband Paul and her family and faith as her rocks. We all have our respective support systems, and often have more than we even realize.

10. Do the same thing when nobody’s watching: The stories abound about Pelosi sending cards and Ghirardelli chocolates to people, calling when things are tough, saying the same thing behind the camera as in front of it. It’s who we are when no one is watching that reveals so much of ourselves.

Pelosi exemplifies fearlessly – and a person who thoroughly enjoys her work, which we can all emulate in our own careers, in our own ways. “I’m not afraid of anything, but I am vigilant about what we do, and it’s fun,” Pelosi told Newton-Small, adding, “I enjoy the politics, but I enjoy the policy more.”

(Listen to Joan’s interview with Jay Newton-Small about her book “Broad Influence” here.)

Read the other 10 career insights from watching Speaker Pelosi here:

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Date: November 20, 2022, 4:54 pm