Monica Johnson

Monica Johnson is a professional speaker dedicated to promoting mental health wellness & empowering and building women leaders.

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Don't Mess With Me.

Unless you have been in an unfortunate coma or living under the largest rock known to mankind, you have heard the story behind the words that echoed throughout all of America this week: “Don’t mess with me.”- Nancy Pelosi


Listen, it really doesn’t matter what political affiliation you may have, like most things around us on a daily basis, there is a really important lesson in that simple sentence. One of the lessons I have learned about being an effective leader, is that you must have integrity. I dedicate an entire chapter to this concept in my book, “Fab 30: Critical Leadership Lessons for Women” https://www.amazon.com/dp/1086762843 . – Completely non-shameless plug.


The concept of integrity is sometimes complicated, but for me, it boils down to what is a core principle that is a non-negotiable for you? This principle is a core part of your character; may be one or several. When it is violated in any way, you push back…..hard. For me, it’s a sense of fairness. I need for things to seem fair, and when they don’t, I start to short circuit. I am an adult and know that everything doesn’t always go the way I want and that life in general is often full of unfair experiences. That’s not what I mean as it relates to fairness being an integral part of my “Integrity Makeup”. It means, that I value this part of integrity for myself. It also means that as a leader, I lead with this core principle and if something challenges this or violates this, I react. I may respond in any of the following ways:


1. I establish hard boundaries by refusing to do the activity or “thing” being requested of me. Depending on the setting (Professional or Personal) I will likely provide you with an explanation for why I am offended. I like to be clear when possible as it aides in preventing future conflicts.


2. I am irritated and shut down. This isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you need to know when to pause before acting or making your next move, especially when your core is being violated. The pause allows me to recover from the short circuit effect and come back more thoughtfully. I will still address it, but in my own time.


3. I check you immediately. Ok, this is my most probable default position if I am being honest. It is likely many people’s first instinct! You can’t help it sometimes! When someone attacks you (purposefully or inadvertently – remember others don’t know what your integrity principles are…. you don’t come with a birthmark indicating this!) or offends you, they just may get checked on the spot. It’s a teaching moment for all involved. It will let you know the offender hit a nerve and that this IS YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLE. Additionally, it will teach the offender to never “mess with” you again. Aren’t teaching moments the best?!?! 😊


Often, leaders don’t know what their non-negotiable core principles are. These leaders sway with the wind and don’t seem to have a compass that guides them through their decision making. I encourage people I mentor or work with to really get to know yourself in a way that you can articulate your non-negotiables. You build your leadership style around these, not mimic someone else’s; it has to be genuinely and uniquely YOU.


Well, if you don’t know the backstory to why Madam Speaker Pelosi stated, “Don’t mess with me”, please do Google the entire story as it was such an excellent example of a leader, in real time, having her integrity challenged. In short, she was at a news conference and a reporter asked her, as she was heading out, if she hated the POTUS. She stopped in her tracks and responded that she did not hate him and referenced her Catholic beliefs as the backdrop to why. She was clearly livid that someone would insinuate that she had hatred in her heart for him or anyone for that matter. After her initial response, which also included a finger wag that we have all seen a mom, grandmother, aunt, or some woman do, to check you on the spot, she then went BACK to the podium so she could speak through the microphone. The Speaker wanted to ensure her words were heard and she was clear in her response. Listen, for a second, it felt like I was the one in trouble! She was clearly offended and a non-negotiable part of her character had been attacked. Near the end of her extended reply, she looked directly at the reporter and said, “Don’t mess with me.” – *Epic MIC Drop*. Whew honey....




THAT, my friends, is what it looks and feels like when your integrity is in question.


Lessons for this week:

1. Know your non-negotiables so you can lead with INTEGRITY.

2. Don’t mess with Nancy.

3. Protect your character.

4. Don’t be afraid to professionally clap-back. It is required on occasion.


To avoid any conflict with me, please note the following:

1. Do not @ me about this Impeachment

2. Do not @ me about any political opinions as this is not a political piece, it is about a woman leader.

3. Re-read number 1 again.


Now go and be great! - MJ






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