Business Time: Lessons Learned from “The Good Wife”
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Love The Good Wife? Yes, me too. Even if there’s no chance of an Alicia-Will reunion, I think this show deserves an Emmy for the best portrayal of a professional woman on TV.
Yes, Alicia is lot of things besides a professional woman–a steadfast mother, a complicated lover, a resentful daughter, and of course, a good wife—but over the course of the series, if there is one part of her identity that has consistently shifted and developed, it’s her identity as a professional.
Over five seasons, we’ve witnessed a capable but meek first-year attorney transform into a cunning, liberated, and shameless name-partner. She uses everything at her disposal—her intelligence, of course, but also her husband’s political influence and her sexuality—to rise to the top. In the most recent season, she even betrays her longtime mentor and lover, Will, and steals his clients to start her own firm.
The brilliance of this show is that it gives a nuanced interpretation of what makes Alicia successful: Is it because she slept with her boss? Maybe. Did having a famous husband help? Perhaps. But that’s not the point. The show’s creators emphasize that, in this dog-eat-dog world of Chicago law firms, there is one thing that sets the winners apart—and that is a “killer instinct.” The ability to go in for the kill. Those who tiptoe can collect their belongings and go home.
It’s difficult for most of us to embrace a killer instinct because it’s at odds with the way we prefer to conduct ourselves in our day-to-day lives. Herein lies the business lesson (the kind you learn at the school of hard knocks): Business is business. Being a winning professional doesn’t have to be at odds with being a good wife, a good mother, or a good person. The lesson that propels Alicia to the top is really quite simple: Don’t be a good professional—be a killer one.