“No” is a Complete Sentence: A Leadership Lesson from Peggy Olson

I’ll miss Peggy Olson. For me, Mad Men was all about Peggy’s remarkable career ascent from her first day in her new job as Don Draper’s secretary to ultimately becoming a highly respected Copy Chief.

Along the way, Peggy made some great career moves (such leaving the agency as an undervalued copywriter, and later returning as Copy Chief) and some truly awful ones (such as awkwardly making a pass at her boss on her first day at work, and getting romantically involved with more than one married coworker.)

But here’s one of my favorite Peggy moments.

In the final episode of season three, Sterling Cooper’s corporate overlords in London are preparing to sell the firm. Roger, Bert, Don and Lane have hatched a plan to go rogue and become partners in their own agency, but a mountain of paperwork stands in their way. So Roger, Joan and Peggy are working late into the night, to get the client and accounting files in order.

Roger announces that he’s tired. “Peggy, can you get me some coffee?” he asks.

To which Peggy replies “No,” without hesitation, explanation or defensiveness—just a simple “no.”

It’s a perfect reminder that “no” can be (and sometimes should be) a complete sentence.

Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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