“Ambassadors” Fill Downton Abbey Void (and teach about leadership)

Have you become as addicted to British TV as I have?  With the end of Downton Abbey I’ve been in a slump, eager to replace my fascination with its characters (particularly the women) with a suitable and equally engaging British program.

I found it.  It’s called “Ambassador.”  It was filmed in 1998 and it’s just two seasons long.  It doesn’t feature beautiful clothes, or breathtaking settings, or upstairs/downstairs intrigue, but it does portray a smart, compassionate, and strong female leader who navigates a wide range of complicated situations with dignity and grace.  Her name is Harriet Smith, but people refer to her simply as “Ambassador”, because she is the British ambassador to Ireland in the late 1990’s.

Harriet is truly a woman in charge.  She has the capacity to view each challenge she faces with a wide-angle lens, somehow able to take in and tackle the emotional and political complexities of every situation and make things right.  She is unafraid to question, to break a few rules, and to admit mistakes-with her children, world leaders, or ordinary citizens of the two countries she serves.

I have no doubt that Madam Secretary, the very popular US show featuring Tia Leoni, has its roots in the character of Harriet.  Both women are portrayed as thoughtful, real human beings at home and at work, and both lead a team of people who know that they are supported and who support them in return. It’s leadership at its best.

Take the time to get to know Harriet and Elizabeth, not because they’re women, not just because they’re leaders, and not because they manage work/life balance reasonably well.  They’re worth watching because they’re both thoughtful and committed ambassadors. Their roles require them to manage relationships, negotiate skillfully, intervene in crises, and to be “on stage” wherever they go.

Diplomatic skills may come in handy for daughters in charge, too.

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