The 12 Best Lady Bosses in TV History – Ranked

We'd gladly work for any of these 12 talented, smart, and ambitious TV boss ladies.

Annalise Keating


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Taylor Tobin1.84k
May 18, 2024 at 10:2AM UTC

When making a list of female role models, many of us include political icons, former bosses, impressive family members...and, of course, our favorite fictional characters.

Avid TV viewers can easily name tons of female characters with remarkable professional lives, many of whom lead departments and supervise junior staffers with confidence (and plenty of jokes). To honor these bomb TV ladies, we made an official ranking of the best female bosses in television history.

Sit down and grab some popcorn. You're going to want to Netflix binge after this.

12. Dr. Mindy Lahiri, “The Mindy Project”

A highly-respected OB/GYN, Dr. Mindy Lahiri (played by showrunner Mindy Kaling) takes her job extremely seriously. She knows that she’s good at what she does, and she beams with confidence whenever she’s at the hospital. But the most refreshing aspect of Mindy’s personality involves her willingness to be completely herself – both on and off the clock. She’s bubbly, chatty, and opinionated, and her communicative nature ultimately boosts her relationships with her colleagues and improves the workplace environment. She doesn’t hesitate to flip her middle finger at anyone suggesting that powerful, professional women can’t embrace the lighthearted sides of their personalities. And we applaud her for that.

11. Tami Taylor, “Friday Night Lights”

In addition to being arguably the best wife and mother to ever grace our screens, “Friday Night Lights” matriarch Tami Taylor (played by Connie Britton) also does the boss thing brilliantly. As the guidance-counselor-turned-principal of Dillon High, Tami regularly fights for her students – insisting on improved test scores and budget allowances for one-on-one mentorship, refusing to let lax bureaucrats slack off, and ensuring that the football-crazed school put equal if not superior emphasis on academic achievement. Her tireless work ultimately results in a job offer to become Dean of Admissions at a small university, proving that if you perform excellently at work, big professional moves could be on the horizon.

10. Annalise Keating, “How To Get Away With Murder”

Okay, we’ll say it: Professor Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davis) is absolutely terrifying. That said, she’s a gifted attorney and an incredible law professor, and she both challenges and inspires the top echelon of students she decides to accept as interns for her practice. Yes, she makes her junior employees deal with some unsavory situations. But Annalise both works hard and plays hard, and she demonstrates a genuine interest in helping her interns and associates learn and grow.

9. Queen Elizabeth II, “The Crown”

This show's depiction of Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy) offers viewers a different perspective on the long-time monarch we’re all used to seeing on the news. It shows us the Queen as a woman forced to accept massive responsibility at a very young age. Her journey involves plenty of ups and downs, but she quickly learns to handle high-level councillors like Prime Minister Winston Churchill, how to liaise with other international governments, and how to balance her family life and her royal commitments.

8. Joan Holloway, “Mad Men”

While employed at Manhattan ad agency Sterling Cooper, Joan Holloway (played by Christina Hendricks) ascends from office manager to partner, and she does it largely based on one indisputable fact: the office can’t function without her. She leads by powerful example, presenting a discreet, highly-competent professional persona who remains committed to the work at hand, even when her personal life becomes complicated.

7. Lieutenant Olivia Benson, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”

Now in her 20th season of catching perps and bringing justice to sexual assault victims, Lieutenant Olivia Benson (played by Mariska Hargitay) has an enviably close and candid relationship with the junior detectives in her squad. The secret to her success involves her legendary empathy; Olivia spent many years doing the hard work of a detective, and now that she’s in command of her own force, she makes a point of relating to the challenges faced by the members of her team. This makes her a beloved supervisor and an extremely effective police commander.

6. Liz Lemon, “30 Rock”

A fan favorite for her quick and crotchety brand of wit, Liz Lemon (played by showrunner Tina Fey) views her late-night show “TGS with Tracy Jordan” as her greatest achievement and passion. And she’ll do whatever it takes to keep the show up and running. With her quirky band of co-writers, executives, and ego-driven actors, this isn’t an easy task – but Liz keeps her focus well-honed while still showing her staff that she cares about them and their work-life balance.

5. Diana Trout, “Younger”

When we first meet Empirical Publishing’s head marketing honcho, Diana Trout (played by Miriam Shor), she seems like an overbearing nightmare boss (albeit one with fantastic fashion sense). She constantly condescends her “26” year old (actually 40) assistant Liza (Sutton Foster), making outrageous demands and exhibiting little consideration for Liza’s time outside of work. But quickly, it becomes clear that Diana is hard on Liza because she sees solid potential there, and she shows her fondness for her junior staffer in unexpected ways, like giving Liza an early “Christmas bonus” when she is in tight financial straits.

4. C.J. Cregg, “The West Wing”

Poised, self-assured, and endlessly patient, Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg (played by Allison Janney) juggles the many stressful demands of her job with grace, humor, and the conversational acuity expected from a celebrated Aaron Sorkin character (but sadly rare in the female roles typically written by Sorkin). C.J. isn’t afraid to push for what she needs and to assert her authority, making her a lady boss worthy of our respect and admiration.

3. Dr. Miranda Bailey, “Grey’s Anatomy”

Like Diana Trout, Dr. Miranda Bailey of Seattle Grace Hospital (played by Chandra Wilson) can come off as acerbic to her junior staffers and interns, even garnering the harsh nickname of “the Nazi”. But while she’s definitely a tough cookie, Miranda excels at her profession and feels genuine affection and sympathy for her colleagues and her patients. Her perfectionism inspires the other doctors at Seattle Grace to try harder and aim higher.

2. Olivia Pope, “Scandal”

A DC crisis management consultant and PR whiz, Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) makes Fitzgerald Grant’s presidential campaign happen. And once he’s in the White House, she and her “gladiators in suits” keep the president’s agenda on track – both on an official and unofficial basis. While her love affair with Fitz does muddy her professional waters, Olivia doesn’t let anything get in the way of her career aspirations, and she surrounds herself with a crack team who she can rely on for delegation purposes.

1. Leslie Knope, “Parks and Recreation”

And now we come to the TV boss to end all TV bosses. Pawnee's Parks & Rec deputy director Leslie Knope (played by showrunner Amy Poehler) isn’t a perfect supervisor. She’s a workaholic, she’s enthusiastic bordering on annoying, she makes unrealistic demands of her employees and her friends, and she’s unnecessarily unkind to at least one junior staffer (#TeamJerry). But in spite of her flaws, Leslie cares about the people of Pawnee like no one else, and she willingly devotes her life to celebrating and improving the town she calls home. Her grasp of work-life balance isn’t the strongest, but later seasons see her making a strong effort in that department with the help of her husband, Ben (Adam Scott). Leslie’s passion for her work is infectious, and viewers can’t help but root for her, the Parks department, and the citizens of Pawnee.  


Did we forget someone? Add your own lady boss in the comments. 

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