Rose McGowan isn't making anyone comfortable. Since slashing her way back into public life in September of 2017 with allegations that producer Harvey Weinstein raped her, she's gone to bat for a generation of women who Have. Had. Enough.
Since the Weinstein story went public, McGowan has hit TV and the speaking circuit like an avenging angel, talking about Weinstein's attack, the spies he sent to follow her and her fury at how the Hollywood machine has attacked and humiliated women. Along with Ashley Judd and Alyssa Milano, she's become a leader, the face of #MeToo.
Her vehemence is a great lesson for any entrepreneur or leader looking to mess with a system where the players are comfortable: get your fierce on and be ready for a take-no-prisoners fight.
But what's really stood out for me about McGowan's rise is how unapologetically abrasive she's been. Since 2015, when she tore up Twitter going after men who sanctioned abuse, she's been pugnacious and confrontational. She's accused talent agencies of human trafficking and even attacked former co-star Milano. At the 2017 Women's Convention in Detroit, she said, "In the face of unspeakable actions from one monster, we look away to another -- the head monster of all, right now -- and they are the same. And they must die. It is time." In an E! documentary, Citizen Rose, she comes off as a narcissist who enjoys making the audience squirm.
Conventional wisdom says that's the wrong way to lead. Aren't leaders supposed to inspire and encourage? In normal times, sure. But these are not normal times. Terrorized, slandered and robbed of her power, McGowan is taking that power back. She's declared war, and you don't win a war by being Paige from Charmed. You win it by being a freaking warrior.
McGowan embodies a radical theory of mine. For centuries, leadership has been earned. You went to school, got your degree, rose through the ranks and eventually were anointed. But no more. Today, leadership can be taken. You don't need a degree, an endorsement, or permission. Today's leaders set fire to the system or shine a light on hypocrisy. They go first, take the bullets, refuse to back down, and show us that we don't have to put up with any nonsense.
That's Rose McGowan. Her approach might make you grit your teeth, but she's not out to make friends. She's out to win. And while her ferocious persona might alienate people at an established company, those same prickly qualities are exactly what an entrepreneur at war with the status quo needs. If that's you, here are 4 gut-level leadership lessons courtesy of Ms. McGowan:
Have a mission.
McGowan isn't trying to get famous; she's been famous. She's on a crusade for justice and to prevent more women from going through Hell. Her ferocity suits her purpose, and people respond. Figure out the mission that keeps you awake at 4am and makes you fearless, and your people will walk through fire to help you achieve it. ?
You might not feel brave. But if the stakes are high enough, you can fake it until you believe it--and so do others. McGowan's uncompromising words might unsettle, but they've also helped other women realize that they could speak up, and that's what has happened. Make a sermon. Write your Gettysburg Address. Say what no one else will and you'll inspire your people to do what no one else can.
Don't be so polished, you lose your authenticity.
The Hollywood sex scandal was all about packaging--predators pretending to be good guys. Never again. McGowan knew there's a time to be raw, rough and real, and that time is now. Today's savvy, sophisticated employees and customers can't be manipulated, so stop worrying about your personal brand. Instead, drop the facade, show them who you are, be vulnerable and speak plainly. You'll be shocked how many people will love you for it.
Embrace being the underdog.
The entire Hollywood system versus one furious ex-actress? The system never had a chance. We love underdogs, and if you're a rebellious upstart or challenging the status quo in your industry, you are one. Own it. Admit with a grin that your chances suck, the other guy holds all the cards, and doom is probably right around the corner. Then drop the gloves. Don't play nice. Turn your band of pirates loose to mess things up. Hell, if you're going to get stomped, you might as well have fun, right? The thing is, when you ignore the rules and have a blast, sometimes you win.
Take leadership. As Rose McGowan says, it's time.